How Long Does It Take To Become a Dental Assistant?

Oct 26 2020

PCI student observing dentist.

If you’re considering a career as a Dental Assistant and want to know how long it can take, the answer is that it depends on the school and the program. At Pittsburgh Career Institute, it’s possible to complete our program in as little as 40 instructional weeks or a little under 10 months.

Licensure and/or registration requirements to become a Dental Assistant varies state by state. Pennsylvania does not require licensure for Dental Assistants, but getting an education to become a professional could be a good way to set your future in the medical industry up for success.

Learn more about what is included in the 40 instructional weeks at Pittsburgh Career Institute.

What Do Dental Assistants Learn?

While programs may vary, there is plenty to learn when studying to become a Dental Assistant. As part of an education to become a Dental Assistant in Pennsylvania, you can expect to take classes in a variety of subjects ranging from anatomy and system structures to dental radiology and the study of dental x-ray equipment.

Dental Assistant students studying.

Coursework for Dental Assistants include:

  • Microbiology and how to prevent infection
  • How to sterilize dental instruments
  • Education in the services a dentist provides and the role of Dental Assistants
  • Chairside assisting best practices
  • An overview of dental x-ray equipment and how to process x-rays
  • How to polish teeth and apply dental sealants
  • Identifying diseases of the oral cavity
  • Common pharmaceuticals used in dentistry
  • How to handle dental emergencies
  • Dental office management
  • State laws and regulations
  • And more

In the learning process to become a Dental Assistant, it’s more than reading a textbook and listening to lectures. Dental Assistant students can work with actual equipment in the learning process to understand how it works and keep their patients safe under their care.

They can learn how to anticipate what the dentist needs and are an integral part of making sure all equipment is thoroughly sanitized. When they aren’t working with the dentist directly, they’re taking patient appointments, handling billing, processing insurance, and more.

Dental Assistant student cleaning teeth.

At Pittsburgh Career Institute, we strive to achieve a balance of learning styles with lectures, laboratory work, and a clinical component. Once you’ve completed the basic classwork, an externship is required for all potential Dental Assistants. As part of an externship, you can experience the day-in-the-life of a Dental Assistant working at a dental office while you’re still in school!

What Can You Do as a Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistants are an integral part of any dental practice. They take care of most of the patient’s paperwork, help schedule appointments, and assist dentists while providing treatment, by handing tools to dentists, sterilizing equipment after it’s been used, and more.

Dental Assistants shouldn’t be confused with the work of Dental Hygienists. Dental Hygienists often clean each patient’s teeth and provide an initial diagnosis before a dentist examines further for any underlying dental issues.

Dental Assistants focus more on the organizational aspect of running a dental practice, with managing equipment and records to keep everything running smoothly.

Learn more about the differences between a Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist.

Why Consider a Career as a Dental Assistant?

Careers as a Dental Assistant are expected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Everyone needs dental care, which often means a Dental Assistant is needed to help the office stay organized and keep patients happy.

Dental Assistant students examining equipment

According to the American Dental Association, Dental Assistants have the flexibility to work in a variety of settings, running from solo dental practices to acting as a dental product sales representative.

Unlike other professions in the dental field, it’s possible to start doing what you love sooner, since you can complete your education in less than a year.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a career, you might be a good fit as a Dental Assistant if you love being part of a team. Because Dental Assistants take care of paperwork, medical records, and billing, organization skills are a must, too!

Learn more about other signs a career as a Dental Assistant might be a good fit for you.

Learn How To Pursue a Career as a Dental Assistant

If you’re looking for a career that makes it possible to start doing what you love sooner, you may want to consider becoming a Dental Assistant! The first step is to learn more about our Dental Assistant Program and see if it’s the right fit for you.

From there, you can start the application process online and schedule a tour of our school to get more information about applying for financial aid* and our class schedules. We’re with you every step of the way to pursue a career you can love!

*Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

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