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Are you interested in becoming a dental assistant? If you have amazing interpersonal skills and are looking for more than just administrative work or scheduling appointments, being a dental assistant is an extremely rewarding experience. 

Jobs for dental assistants in the Northwest and greater United States have a positive outlook, with a steady career and modest entry-level salary. But depending on where you live, your formal education can range from community colleges and vocational schools to on-the-job training. Selecting the best dental assistant school is the first step to becoming a dental assistant. Where you live—and plan to work—will impact the type of training and dental accreditation that you need. 

What’s Involved in a Dental Assistant Certificate Program?

A certified dental assistant assists all team members throughout the dental office, including dentists and dental hygienists. However, the majority of their time will go to supporting the dentist during clinical procedures. As such, it’s important that an aspiring dental assistant gain experience in areas of:

  • Infection control
  • Oral surgery
  • Dental pharmacology
  • Radiology and imaging
  • Dental terminology
  • Medical emergencies 
  • Dental materials
  • Patient management
  • Dental instruments
  • Chairside assisting 

Most dental assisting schools are a diploma program, as an associate degree program is typically not required to earn your certification. So, if you’re excited about learning a new career or just want to gain experience before applying to associate or bachelor’s dental hygiene academic programs, dental assisting is a perfect choice. 

registered dental assistant training at Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School

Which Dental Assisting School Should I Apply To?

Most aspiring dental assistants in Oregon or Washington receive on-the-job training directly through a dental assisting program. A high school diploma is usually all that’s required for admission. You will want to be sure that your dental assistant program is accredited and compliant with state regulations. 

Since becoming a dental assistant in each state requires different processes, it’s best to communicate with your program director or administrator before applying. Most Pacific Northwest Dental Assistant School applicants come from Oregon and Washington. 

What Makes Someone a Certified Dental Assistant? 

Certifications for dental assistants will vary from state to state. For instance, Oregon and Washington both have separate training and certification requirements. Working with the right dental assistant training program will ensure you have professionals guiding you through the process of required hours, testing, and certification processes so that you can apply for a job after school. 

Becoming a Dental Assistant in Washington 

In Washington, aspiring dental assistants can start right away after completing their on-the-job or certificate training program. Our program includes 144 hours of classroom study in addition to a 50-hour internship, so there’s no need to look far and wide to find a dental office to provide you with clinical training. Instead, you’ll learn directly from an assisting expert with over 30 years in the industry! Our students are competitive from the moment they complete their education, as we offer one of the most comprehensive and prestigious training platforms for dental assistants in Washington. 

A Note for Oregon Dental Assisting Students

For our prospective students planning to work as an entry-level dental assistant in Oregon, our certificate program can jump-start you toward the requirements necessary. Oregon dental assistants have two career path options: receive 1,000 hours total on-the-job training or pass required licensing exams. Since our program offers both in-class and chairside training, we can guide you through a study regimen and practice tests to help you succeed. Or, if you prefer not to test, you’ll already have several internship hours complete before pursuing additional chairside experience. 

Over the years, our certificate program graduates have passed numerous national certifications (including DANB, CDA exams) to offer more advanced duties and achieve successful careers. As an accredited program, one of the things we strive for is the success of our students, both in technical skills as well as access to review courses for additional certifications. 

As long as you plan in advance, you will be able to complete the required dental assisting certificate and still gain the proper documentation needed to get straight to work. The two pathway options allow you to have more choices available when it comes to looking for a job after graduation. 

dental assisting national board certificate of completion

Do I Need a Certificate to Become a Dental Assistant? 

The types of certificates offered for dental assistants vary throughout the country. The DANB exams are no longer required, but some CDA (certified dental assistant) and radiation health exams are still mandated in certain states. You can also work toward additional levels of certification, as it impacts your job success and pay rate when looking for a dental assisting career. For instance, the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NLDA) shows a broad knowledge of dental assisting for traditional family practices. The Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) is offered in certain geographical areas and recognized by dentists for things like nitrous oxide monitoring, sealant application, coronal polishing, or expanded duties where allowed by law. You will also need to have a current healthcare provider CPR course up to date and possible radiation certification (depending on your state.)

Not all states require dental assistants to have licensure or certificates to work. Some are required within a certain timeframe, and others are strictly optional. Always be sure to work with your dental assisting program and check with state regulations to ensure you’re receiving the proper dental assistant certification for your career goals. 

Study With an Experienced Team

At Pacific Northwest Dental Assistant School, we help you become a proficient dental assistant who can work in general practices, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, or as a certified orthodontic assistant, among others. Our career professionals will help you identify the best path of training and certifications, depending on whether you plan to work in Washington or Oregon, respectively. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a new career as a dental assistant or want to learn more about the program at Pacific Northwest Dental Assistant School, contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. Flexible payment plans are also available as part of your enrollment.