Dental assistants prepare patients for treatment, sterilize tools, and assist dentists during procedures. Online dental certificates are a flexible way for working professionals to enter or move up in a high-demand field. Dental assistant certificate online graduates make a median salary of $37,040, with the top 10% earning more than $52,000.

Dentists often hire more than one dental assistant. This allows them to see more patients in a day, and most dental assistant positions are full time. As the large baby boomer population ages and health professionals continue to stress the importance of good dental hygiene, the demand for trained professionals will continue to grow. The field is projected to grow 18% from 2014 to 2024, which translates to more than 50,000 jobs.

Rank School Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

IUPUI's dental assistant certificate online program is accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. The program is available in a hybrid format with minimal on-campus requirements. The 31-credit program consists of lectures, labs, and clinical instruction in areas such as oral physiology and pathology, dental therapeutics, and practice management. Students complete nonclinical coursework online and attend campus one to two Saturdays per month for pre-clinics, labs, and exams.

Graduates are eligible to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board exam. Students may earn professional certification in expanded restorative functions by completing the coronal polishing and caries prevention course series. Credits earned while completing the dental assistant program online may be transferred to IUPUI's bachelor's programs in organizational leadership, public health, or general studies.

2 Oregon State University Corvalis, OR Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

OSU offers aspiring dental assistants a self-directed online learning option that equips graduates for entry-level positions in dental practice. This dental assistant certificate program emphasizes chairside knowledge and provides necessary administrative skills. Students become familiar with oral anatomy, dental equipment, and infection control. The curriculum places particular emphasis on radiologic techniques in dentistry.

Students progress through seven content modules, which involve multimedia presentations, assigned reading, interactive self-assessment quizzes, supplemental resources geared toward different learning styles, and exams. Faculty and student mentors offer coaching and assistance. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Radiation Health and Safety exam and the Infection Control exam. A clinical externship is not required but is recommended. Full-time students typically complete the program in six months.

3 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 90%

Rutgers students may complete the administrative dental assistant certificate program online. The program focuses on the practice management aspect of a dental assistant's role. The self-paced program is delivered entirely online, with no on-campus or internship requirements. In addition to dental anatomy and disease prevention fundamentals, students gain expertise in medical records management, procedural and diagnostic coding, patient scheduling, dental insurance and billing, reimbursement management, and master recall systems.

Students complete this dental assistant certificate online program at their own pace, but most graduate in six months. Rutgers provides students with textbooks and DENTRIX G4 modeling software. The software required for this self-directed program is not compatible with Apple products.

4 Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 40%

OTC's dental assistant certificate online program is CODA-accredited and leads to national and state credentials. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Certified Dental Assistant exam, and the program's curriculum meets the requirements for expanded functions permits within the state of Missouri. The certificate program emphasizes dental anatomy and terminology, chairside assisting, dental materials and equipment, infection control, and radiology technique.

Students in the hybrid dental assisting program complete nonclinical coursework online and attend labs and clinical instruction at the Springfield campus on Saturdays. Students also complete clinical rotations in the campus dental clinic, which operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 5.

5 Monroe Community College Rochester, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

MCC offers a unique opportunity for professionals who are currently employed by a New York state licensed dental office, but lack professional certification credentials. The dental assisting rapid track program leads to licensure in only two semesters. Students completing the dental assistant certificate program online build on existing knowledge and complete coursework to meet state requirements for licensure. The program's training and clinical instruction covers chairside assistance, dental materials and equipment, radiology technique, and infection control.

Because each student's employer provides clinical training, the program does not require an internship or campus attendance. However, students in this program do not qualify for financial aid. MCC accepts applications on a rolling basis.


Dental assistant certificate programs online share many similarities. Courses will vary between schools, but the list below will give you an idea of what courses you can expect to take.

  • Oral Anatomy: Students are introduced to anatomy as it pertains to dental and orthodontic work. They learn the location and function of nerves, muscles, and other structures found in the head, neck, and face. Facial and oral anatomy is an essential course.
  • Oral Radiology: This course teaches aspiring dental assistants how a dental x-ray unit works, and how to operate one. Students learn about the components of the x-ray unit and about safety precautions and the history of radiology. Taking x-rays is one of the primary jobs of dental, orthodontic, and oral surgery assistants.
  • Chairside Assisting: Students learn how to assist dentists with procedures. Learners are introduced to dental equipment and instruments and learn how to perform four-handed procedures. These courses often cover chairside assisting in surgical, orthodontic, and dental settings.
  • Dental Materials: This course covers dental instruments and the ways in which they are typically organized in an office. Students are instructed on the various types of dental equipment and their uses. The course also provides instruction on the types of glues and cements used in dental work and the role a dental assistant plays in working with these materials.


If you are interested in completing a dental assistant certificate program online, you should consider how much time you are willing to commit to earning a certificate. It can take between six months and one year to complete a certificate program. Some programs are hybrid, meaning they require on-campus visits for labs and demonstrations. The schedule and flexibility of these visits can affect the amount of time your program will take.

Some dental assistant certificate programs are individually paced, while others are taught through a cohort learning format. Individual programs allow you to complete courses and assignments at your own pace. Cohort learning programs require that you work at the same pace as the rest of your class. There are benefits to both types of learning, but cohort programs typically take longer to complete.

A certificate or diploma is a great way to acquire job training that will quickly prepare you to enter the workforce. A degree is generally more expensive and takes more time to complete than a certificate or diploma. Degrees typically include coursework that is not career-focused. Diploma and certificate programs are best for students who do not plan to pursue higher education.


Completing a dental assistant certificate program does not mean that you have to pursue a career as a dental assistant. A certificate in dental assistance opens the door to a variety of career paths. Graduates are prepared to work alongside dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants prepare patients for dental work and assist dentists during procedures. They play an essential role in any dentist's office by providing assistance during complicated procedures and by doing some administrative work.
Median Annual Salary: $34,000

Orthodontic Assistant

Orthodontic assistants take x-rays and impressions and prepare patients for the orthodontist. They help out during procedures and clean and organize equipment.
Median Annual Salary: $38,000

Oral Surgery Assistant

Oral surgery assistants do similar work to dental and orthodontic assistants, but in a surgical setting. They prepare the patient for surgery and sterilize all necessary instruments. They also assist during procedures and make sure the patient leaves with all the information they need.
Median Annual Salary: $38,000


Some students who finish their dental assistant certificate online choose to continue their studies to acquire more training, which increases their earning potential. Dental hygienists earn an average of around $67,000 per year, nearly double what dental assistants make. Credits from dental assistant certificate programs online may transfer to associate programs in dental hygienics.

  • Associate in Dental Hygiene: Dental hygiene students learn about oral hygiene and health and how to perform certain procedures. Dental hygienists clean teeth and gums and administer local anesthesia.

Accreditation ensures that your degree, certificate, or diploma meets certain standards. If a school is accredited, that means it has passed a rigorous academic review process. Some programs are regionally accredited, while others are nationally accredited. Traditional four-year universities are typically regionally accredited, while career-focused schools are usually nationally accredited.

Popular accrediting agencies specific to the dental field are the Commission on Dental Accreditation and the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. It is important to ensure that your program and school is accredited. The Council on Higher Education Accreditation's website includes a database of accredited schools.

If you are interested in completing a dental assistant certificate online, it is important to compare tuition rates. While dental assistant certificate programs online are not as expensive as degrees, they are still a financial burden. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out if you are eligible for federal financial aid. There are also scholarship opportunities available. The American Dental Association Foundation offers $850,000 in grants and scholarships each year to dental students.


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