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Dental Assistant Overview

Dental Assistant

Career/Program Overview

A dental assistant is a vital member of the dental health team and enjoys a broad range of exciting and challenging duties.  The job description of a dental assistant includes: preparation of instrument tray set-ups and treatment rooms, chair side assisting, expanded functions, patient oral care instruction, instrument recirculation and sterilization, dental laboratory procedures, management of hazardous materials, and dental business office procedures. Expanded functions are a special group of procedures a qualified Minnesota dental assistant may perform independently on a patient; such as polishing the teeth, taking radiographs, applying dental sealants, taking impressions, tying in orthodontic wires, fabricating temporary crowns and bridges, and administering nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation.

The Dental Assistant major is designed to provide the student with the technical knowledge, manual skills, clinical experiences, and focus on professional behavior required to make the graduate a valuable member of the dental health care profession. The program prepares the student to function in both general and specialty dental practices.


Coursework includes: Dental Communications, Dental Science I and II, Chairside Assisting I and II, Dental Infection Control, Dental Radiology, Expanded Functions I and II, Dental Materials, Preventive Dentistry, and Dental Practice Management. Clinical experience is obtained in the technically current dental clinic, consisting of a reception room and business office, 18 treatment rooms, a recirculation/sterilization room, a radiography darkroom, and a complete dental laboratory. Patients come to the dental clinic for tooth polishing, fluoride treatments, dental x-rays, dental sealants, and personal oral care instruction. A dentist is on staff to aid in student instruction and supervision in expanded functions clinics.  In the final semester of the program, students will further their clinical experience through three assigned internships in different dental offices in southeastern Minnesota. The internships are approximately three weeks each, with two in general dental practices, and one in a specialty dental practice. 

Upon successful completion of the Dental Assistant program, graduates are eligible to sit for the Minnesota licensure exam, Minnesota jurisprudence exam, and the national certification exam for dental assistants.

Program/Degree Options

RCTC’s Dental Assistant program offers both a 47 credit diploma option and a 64 credit Associate in Applied Science degree option. There are different delivery options available and they are detailed on the Dental assistant Program application form. It should be noted that taking the program in one calendar year will be a heavy academic load so students are advised to limit part-time work to weekends.

A 13-credit Expanded Functions certificate program is available for dental assistants who have already earned the credential of a certified dental assistant but who have not yet earned the credential of a Minnesota licensed dental assistant.

Program Start Date(s)

In order to complete the diploma program in one year, students must start the Dental Assistant program fall semester.  Students who wish to complete the AAS program may start the general education courses in any semester.

Career Opportunities/Information

The career outlook for Certified and Licensed Dental Assistants in Minnesota is excellent. Dental Assisting is a career that includes excellent work schedules, attractive compensation packages, and a pleasant work environment and is in high demand throughout the United States. A dental assistant may be employed in a general dental practice or a specialty dental practice. The dental specialties include: Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics, Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgery, Endodontics, Periodontics and Prosthodontics. A dental assistant may be employed in solo or group dental practices, hospital dentistry, research institutions, government dental facilities, or dental training facilities. Some employment opportunities exist with dental product manufacturers and dental supply companies.

Gainful Employment Programs

Gainful employment programs are those “that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”

The most current RCTC gainful employment information can be found at: http://www.rctc.edu/catalog/programs.


Rochester Community and Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

The RCTC Dental Assistant program is accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation.

For additional information on the most current list of RCTC program articulations see us at: http://www.rctc.edu/catalog/articulations/

Miscellaneous Information

Program Pre-admission Requirements: Please see the Dental Assistant Program application form for a detailed description of pre-program admissions criteria for each different dental assistant program major and delivery option. 

Program Course Requirements: Verification of Approved MN Department of Human Services Studies.

Current certification in Professional Rescuer Level CPR/AED through the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

Clinical & Laboratory Health & Safety Provisions:  RCTC and the Dental Assistant Program comply with mandated and recommended health and safety policies to ensure a safe learning and working environment for students, staff, and patients.  The RCTC Bloodborne and Infectious Disease Policy is accessible by entering RCTC Policy 6.4.4 in the search box on the RCTC website. Upon entering the Dental Assistant Program, students will be given a copy of the RCTC Dental Assistant Program Lab/Clinic Policies Manual, which details all program policies relating to infection control, hazards management, and safety in the lab and clinical settings.

Additional Information

Program Website: http://www.rctc.edu/program/da
Program Plan: http://www.rctc.edu/catalog/programs
More Information: http://www.rctc.edu/contact

Last Updated: October 7, 2014

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