Accredited Online Dental Assistant Schools - Degrees & Certificates

Dental assisting offers exciting career opportunities for people who want to work in the professional fields of dental hygiene or dentistry. Dental assistants are paraprofessionals who work directly with patients, dental hygienists, and dentists by performing various highly essential dental clinic duties in a team setting. With a projected faster than average expected growth of 8 percent nationally (2021-2031), dental assisting can be a rewarding and in-demand career option for people who enjoy working in teams, as well as for those wishing to explore future careers in dental hygiene or dentistry.

Studies show that diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders are causing decreased healthy immune functions. This can result in an increased rate of periodontal disease and other oral infections. These findings, combined with a large aging population, are the two driving factors behind this profession’s projected steady job growth.

Dental assistants perform various clinical and administrative jobs while interacting with patients, dental hygienists, dentists, and administrative professionals. In addition to scheduling appointments and gathering patients’ information and medical history, dental assistants also provide support to dentists. At the same time, they tend to the dental and oral hygiene needs of their patients.

Dental assistants also prepare and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment and communicate post-surgery care instructions to patients. Other duties include handing tools to a dentist during a procedure, setting up and breaking down operating spaces, and contributing to various office management and administrative tasks.

There are various professional pathways to becoming a dental assistant, and educational requirements vary from state to state. Some states require new professionals to graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a national exam before working in a dental clinic. Some states replace formal education requirements with on-the-job training experience, allowing dental assistants to learn skills in a clinic.

Once dental assistant students complete their training, there are options to pursue professional certification. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is affiliated with the American Dental Association and has accredited approximately 240 dental assisting programs in the United States. After graduating from an accredited program or completing designated on-the-job training approved by a dentist, dental assistants can choose to take the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) examination to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

Read on to learn more about dental assistant school requirements, accrediting organizations, online dental assisting programs, and dental assisting professors to know.

Admissions Requirements & Accreditation of Dental Assisting Programs

While requirements vary from state to state, many dental assisting program schools require the following documentation as part of their application process:

  • Completed application
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal essay
  • Prerequisite coursework
  • Background check
  • CPR certification
  • Drug screening
  • Physical examination
  • Attendance at information, advising, and orientation sessions

When selecting a dental assisting program, accreditation is an essential factor to consider. Financial aid is granted only to students attending accredited educational institutions. For the field of dental assisting, programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are known to be held to high standards of educational quality and are valued by students and employers. CODA evaluates various dental programs and schools, including predoctoral, advanced, and allied dental education programs.

Online Dental Assisting Programs

Featured below are eight online and accredited dental assisting programs.

Please note that while CODA does not accredit Monroe Community College, Rutgers University, Hudson Valley Community College, and the University of Houston–Downtown, they are fully online dental assisting programs that prepare graduates to sit for the national DANB exam and state-specific dental assisting certification exams.

Monroe Community College

The 24-credit hour online dental assisting rapid track (DART) certificate program at Monroe Community College is available for currently employed dental assistants who work with a sponsoring dentist. Combining clinical training with online courses, the program helps students develop advanced skills in laboratory procedures, chairside dental assisting procedures, radiographic techniques, manipulation of dental materials, infection control procedures, and specialty assisting procedures.

Courses include pre-clinical dental assisting; radiography; infection control measures; biomedical foundations; clinical experience; and dental materials. Students in this program complete 500 hours of clinical experience with a sponsoring dentist as part of their requirements. Students will also study relevant biomedical science, pathology, oral embryology and histology, ethical and legal aspects of dentistry, and therapeutics. Additionally, they will also take coursework in written and oral communications and behavioral concepts.

  • Location: Rochester, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($198 per credit), out-of-state ($396 per credit)

Ozarks Technical Community College

Ozarks Technical Community College offers two hybrid dental assisting programs. Students in these hybrid programs benefit from on-campus laboratory and clinical experience under the supervision of a dentist. The programs prepare students to become valuable members of a dental health team. They prepare them to serve in various roles: chairside assistant, oral surgery assistant, office manager, laboratory assistant, and orthodontic assistant.

The dental assisting program offers two professional tracks for those seeking a certificate or an associate’s degree of applied science (AAS) in dental assisting. New cohorts begin once a year, and the hybrid program application deadline is in October. The AAS degree program is made up of 61 credits, while the certificate comprises 39 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as chairside assisting; infection prevention; operative dentistry; dental science and health; dental materials; dental radiology; and dental office procedures.

  • Location: Springfield, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (1.9 Years); AAS (2.9 years)
  • Estimated Tuition: AAS (In-district – $15,526; out-of-district – $17,403); certificate (in-district – $11,727; out-of-district – $12,570)

Rutgers University

Rutgers University features a completely online dental assisting certificate program. Nationally recognized, this program features coursework in records management; office equipment and inventory; scheduling and recall systems; financial management; employment strategies; interpersonal communication skills; and dental insurance processing. The online courses are taught by full-time university faculty.

After completing the program, students are prepared with the skills needed to perform essential dental duties, including patient and dental team interaction, dental terminology, DENTRIX software, and assisting dentists in patient care.

  • Location: New Brunswick, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six to 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,285 total

University of Houston–Downtown

The University of Houston–Downtown campus features a 100-hour fully online dental assisting program with a 40-hour clinical externship. This program prepares students for entry-level dental assisting positions in clinical and administrative settings. In addition, it is an ideal starting place for those interested in future dental hygienist programs.

Coursework in this program includes coursework in dental administration; coding of radiology services; dental radiology; dental cements and impression materials; patient information and assessment; the foundation of clinical dentistry; dental anatomy and physiology; and oral health and preventions of dental disease. A CPR certification course is included as part of the curriculum.

After completion of this program, graduates are prepared to sit for the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) dental assisting exam offered throughout the state of Texas and DANB exams, including specialized tests for Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE).

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Contact program representative for sample schedules
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,199 total (not including externship)

Western Iowa Tech Community College

Western Iowa Tech Community College offers a hybrid dental assisting diploma program preparing students for infection control management, management of dental and medical emergencies, chairside assisting procedures in specialty and general dentistry, patient education, intra- and extra-oral radiographic procedures, basic business office procedures, and fabrication of oral appliances. Students will learn theory online or in the classroom and will practice hands-on skills in the college’s state-of-the-art lab at the Sioux City campus.

The curriculum of this 35-credit diploma will include courses in dental anatomy; dental therapeutics; dental materials; fundamentals of dental assisting; dental radiography; dental assisting specialties; dental office procedures; and an introduction to psychology. Graduates of this program will be prepared for licensure in Iowa and national certification through the DANB.

  • Location: Sioux City, IA
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Expected Time to Completion:
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($6,895); out-of-state ($6,930)

Quinsigamond Community College

Quinsigamond Community College’s dental assisting certificate prepares graduates for performing a wide range of patient care duties in the dental office. The curriculum of this certificate provides students with the laboratory and pre-clinical experiences and theoretical content necessary for developing the ability and competence to make judgments regarding chair-side, laboratory, and intra-oral procedures. Fifty percent or more of the curriculum can be completed online.

Made up of 39 credits, the program includes courses such as anatomy & physiology; dental anatomy; dental sciences; dental radiology; dental materials; practice management; and introduction to oral pathology. All credits earned from this certificate can be applied to associate’s degrees in such disciplines as allied dental services or dental hygiene.

  • Location: Worcester, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc. (NECHE); American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $980 per semester

Sinclair Community College

Sinclair Community College offers a short-term technical certificate in dental assisting delivered in a hybrid format. Hybrid courses involve online classes and one or two days per week of on-campus Lab experiences depending on the semester. Students in this program will be introduced to the fundamentals of working in dental offices as chair-side dental assistants. They will also be introduced to the techniques and concepts of basic equipment, oral evacuation, four-handed dentistry, and instrument identification.

The program’s 17-credit curriculum includes courses such as dental assisting techniques & materials; dental assisting office management; dental assisting radiography; introduction to dental assisting terminology; interpersonal communication; and basic life support training for healthcare providers.

  • Location: Dayton, OH
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months or less
  • Estimated Tuition: $136.03 per credit

Hudson Valley Community College

The Dental Hygiene Department at Hudson Valley Community College offers an online dental assisting certificate preparing aspiring new students to perform tasks in dental offices, such as performing office duties, preparing materials for dental procedures, and sterilizing instruments. Notably, the college also offers an Alternative Dental Assisting Program (ADAP) for professionals currently working in this field having more than 3,500 hours of work experience and CPR certification.

The online certificate comprises 27 credits and includes courses such as dental anatomy and embryology; dental assisting radiology; dental materials for dental assistants; oral hygiene education and nutrition; and dental office procedures, among others. The certificate also includes 225 hours of hands-on clinical experience through a formal clinical internship.

Upon successful completion, graduates of this certificate will be eligible to apply for the Radiation Health & Safety (RHS) Exam, Infection Control Exam (ICE), and the New York State Professional Dental Assisting (NYPDA) Examination. All these exams are administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) for becoming New York State Registered Dental Assistants (RDA).

  • Location: Troy, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($200 per credit); non-resident and out-of-state resident ($400 per credit)

Dental Assisting Professors to Know

Rebecca Caceres brings extensive experience to her role as dental hygiene program director at OTC. She’s a certified dental assistant, a registered dental hygienist, and holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Evangel University. Since joining the faculty at OTC in 2010, she has developed an opportunity for dental students to travel to Nicaragua on an annual dental service mission trip. In addition, Caceres teaches dental courses to the community through the OTC workforce development department.

Gabriele Hamm is the dental assisting program coordinator for the Dental Hygiene Department at Hudson Valley Community College, where she also has experience as a dental assisting educator. She completed her dental assisting certificate from Westchester Para-professional School and received her AS degree from Hudson Valley Community College. She is also a licensed Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) from the New York State Education Department and holds her national certification as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) and as a Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA) given by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Dr. Janet Sell is the program director for dental assisting at OTC. As a certified dental assistant in private practices, she has created, directed, and participated in several continuing education dental events and seminars and worked as a curriculum consultant for the Commission on Dental Accreditation. She also has served on several professional organizations’ boards, including the Missouri Dental Assistants Association, Springfield Dental Assistants Society, and Missouri Dental Assisting Educators.

A certified online instructor and alumnus of the OTC leadership academy, she’s received several awards, including the Excellence in Education Award at OTC in 2013. She completed her EdD from Lindenwood University, EdS from Northcentral University, MS from Drury University, BS from Drury University, and an AAS from Ozarks Technical Community College.

Rachel Drummond
Rachel Drummond Writer

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).