Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Assisting

What is the DANB?

The Dental Assisting National Board, or DANB, is a nationally recognized certification organization for dental assistants.  It is a non profit organization that predominantly develops exams for dental assistants and verifies credentials.  It is not a membership organization, and it does not offer any classes or education to prepare for the exams.

What is CODA?

CODA is the Commission on Dental Accreditation, and is an independently run division of the American Dental Association.  It was established in 1975, and is recognized by the United States Department of Education to develop and approve accreditation standards for dental related education programs at the post-secondary level (after high school).

How long is the typical licensing course?

The typical CODA accredited licensing preparation course is one year, or two semesters.  There is often a summer or winter session (depending on course start date) where you will complete an internship at a local dental practice or other clinical setting to gain hands-on experience as a dental assistant.

Every state’s requirements are different, and a CODA accredited course is not always necessary to gain employment.  In this case, you may opt for a shorter vocational program for training, or find employment with a dentist willing to provide on the job training.

Which states allow you to work without any formal training?

Most states allow for entry level dental assistants to begin employment without any formal training.  There are a few states that will require completion of a shorter course (such as in radiography or infection control) within several months to one year after you begin working.  You can find state requirements here.

What is the average pay for a dental assistant?

The average pay for dental assistants nationwide is currently $16 per hour.  Dental assistants with no training or experience will often make less than this amount, as low as $10-$12 per hour, while credentialed dental assistants with years of experience can make more, up to $20-$25 per hour.  The area of the country and cost of living may also influence your pay rate.

How much does it cost to become a dental assistant?

The average cost of a CODA accredited program (which is most highly recommended if you have the time) is between $3,000 – $6,000 at a local community college.  This amount does not include living expenses or food while completing your studies.  Most community colleges do not offer on-campus housing, and you will need to find your own accommodations Much will depend on whether you are a local or in-state resident, since you will benefit from lower tuition rates as a local.  Financial aid is also available from local community colleges, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.