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Clinical Dental Assistant

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Prepare for the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam

Dental assistants play a valuable role in any dental care team, often handling a variety of tasks from assisting with treatment procedures to administrative duties. This 100% online course will help you gain the technical skills you need to join a dental office as a clinical dental assistant. Through interactive lessons, you will also prepare for the Radiation Health and Safety and Infection Control components of the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam.

Job Outlook for Clinical Dental Assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a clinical dental assistant is currently just under $38,000 per year.

Employment is projected to grow by 19% through 2026, which is considered much faster than average. Job demand for dental assistants is projected to grow 10% over the next decade.


Clinical Dental Assistant FAQs

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  • Clinical dental assistant jobs vary based on the dental office and the state your work in. Typical duties include preparing patients for treatment, sterilizing tools, instructing on proper dental hygiene, passing instruments to the dentist during procedures, keeping records of treatments, scheduling appointments and processing x-rays.

  • Most clinical dental assistant training programs can be completed in one year or less. This does not include the time you will spend working in an externship or similar position to gain experience in the field. It also does not include the required two years of work experience you will need to become certified.

  • To become a Certified Dental Assistant, you will need to pass the three components of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certification Exam and meet the Board’s work experience requirements. You will need to pass the Radiation Health and Safety, Infection Control, and General Chairside components of the DANB Certification Exam as well as complete at least two years of work experience (or a minimum of 3,500 hours accrued over a two to four year period).

  • Most dental assistants work a full-time schedule of 40 hours per week, however there are some dental assistants that work part-time. Many of the hours will be worked during the day, but depending on your dental office, you may be asked to work some evenings or weekends.

  • Almost all clinical dental assistants work in dental offices under the supervision of dentists, though some may find employment with the government or in physicians’ offices. Dental assistants work very closely with dental hygienists. In this position, you will be on your feet for large portions of the day and wear surgical masks, safety goggles, gloves, and protective clothing to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

  • No, a dental assistant and a dental hygienist are not the same. A dental assistant directly supports a dentist with small, supervised jobs performed on patients’ teeth and administrative tasks in the office. A dental hygienist will work one-on-one with patients with less supervision. A dental assistant can practice after earning a dental assistant training certificate while a dental hygienist must obtain an associate degree in dental hygiene at minimum.

Course Objectives

Prepare for the Radiology and Infection Control portions of the Dental Assisting National Board

Identify of teeth and their functions, as well as the anatomy of the head and neck

Sterilization and disinfection techniques and infection prevention

Completing patient charting and take vital signs

 Clinical Dental Assistant Externship

You may apply for a 40-hour Dental Externship once you are at least 80% complete with the course, but will also have up to 6 months after course completion to apply. The externship is not guaranteed. It is an optional part of the course, but highly recommended training for clinical assistant experience. Learn more about the externship on the course enrollment page.

Prerequisites and Requirements

There are no prerequisites to take this course.

This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac.

  • Overview of the Dental Profession

    Introduction to the Practice of Dentistry

    Dental Health and Disease

    Oral health and preventative techniques; etiology of dental disease

    Anatomy and Physiology

    Basic human physiology, embryology and histology; head and neck anatomy

    Infection Control

    Microbiology, infection control and managing hazardous materials

    Basics of Dental Assisting

    Patient care, dental charting and pharmacology; anesthesia and sedation, chair-side assisting and dental instruments and tray setups


    Producing and processing quality radiographs; extraoral and digital radiography

    Dental Materials

    Dental cements, bases, liners, and bonding agents; restorative materials, dental dams, matrix, and wedges

    Dental Assisting in the Specialty Practice

    Oral pathology and maxillofacial surgery; endodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics

    Dental Office Management

    Records management; administrative techniques


Cindy Lamkin

Cindy Lamkin has been employed in the dental field for over 20 years. She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in dental hygiene and holds Registered Dental Assistant and Registered Dental Hygienist credentials. In addition to practicing clinical hygiene, she has also worked in dental office administration and treatment coordination. Her career includes general dentistry, as well as specialty practices of periodontics, endodontics, pedodontics, and orthodontics.


Registration and Enrollment

This course is 100% online.

Start any time with 6 months to complete.