How to Become a Dental Assistant

professional dental assistant
professional dental assistant

How to Become a Dental Assistant

If you want to be part of a team whose work makes people smile, dental assisting may be the right career for you. In this role, you’ll help both patients and the dentist as they prepare for exams and procedures. So how can you start your career as a dental assistant—and will it take a long time? With a little training, you could be ready in less than a year.

Step 1: Dental Assistant Training

If you have an interest in dental assisting as well as a high school diploma, you’re ready to take the next step to start your career. What is the next step? Training. At YTI Career Institute, we offer a Dental Assisting program that will teach you how to perform the clinical and administrative duties that will be part of your job. Those duties include:

  • How to prepare exam rooms
  • How to sterilize and set up tools and equipment
  • How to take X-rays and dental impressions
  • How to explain the importance of oral hygiene to patients
  • How to properly code patient files
  • How to fill out insurance paperwork and navigate the billing process

Your training will be conducted by instructors who have worked in the industry. Their years of experience will help you learn what a day in the life of a dental assistant is really like, so you’ll be ready to dive in on your first day of the job.

Step 2: Complete a Dental Assistant Externship

During your training, you’ll spend time in our industry-modeled lab, which simulates the environment of a dentist’s office. You’ll be trained to use the latest tools and equipment, and then you’ll get to apply that knowledge to an externship.

Your externship will place you at a local dental practice, where you’ll gain some hands-on experience. Consider it a practice run before your first job. You’ll have the opportunity to learn—and make mistakes—without any risks. Once you complete your externship and graduate from your training program, you’ll be ready to take the next step.

Step 3: Sit for Your Dental Assisting Licensing Exam

Now it’s time to put your knowledge and skills to the test—literally. Although are not required to have a license or a dental assisting diploma to become a dental assistant in Pennsylvania, employers prefer to hire those who have the proper training and credentials. Without them, it won’t be easy to stand out against other job candidates. In the State of Pennsylvania, there are three exams that you could sit for:

  • Radiation Health and Safety Exam—In order to operate an X-ray machine or take X-rays, you’ll have to pass this exam. You’ll be tested on how to operate the equipment and how to expose and evaluate X-rays. You can take this test at any time because there are no eligibility requirements.
  • Certified Dental Assistant—You can also take the RHS exam as part of the Certified Dental Assistant Exam. The CDA exam has three components: the RHS test, the General Chairside Assisting test, and the Infection Control Exam. Once you pass this test, you’ll be able to attach the CDA credential to your name. This certification will look great on your resume and it will show dentists and patients that they can trust in your abilities.
  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant—If you want to take on more responsibility, you can sit for the EFDA exam. Once you pass, you’ll be able to perform additional functions, such as applying sealants or performing coronal polishes.

Step 4: Apply for a Job as a Dental Assistant

Once you have your license, it’s time to look for a job! Be sure to add your new education and certifications to your resume before you start to apply.


If you’re ready to take the first step toward your new career, contact YTI Career institute today. We offer a Dental Assisting program at our York campus. Fill out the form to learn more.