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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, chairside assisting for dental procedures, expanded functions, patient oral care instruction, instrument recirculation and sterilization, dental laboratory procedures, 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 restorations and administering nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation.

The Dental Assistant major is designed to provide the student with the technical knowledge, manual skills and clinical experiences 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 Assistants are in demand through-out the United States and enjoy excellent work schedules, attractive compensation packages and pleasant work environments. The RCTC Dental Assistant Program has excellent job placement and the 2015 graduates entered the job market with a starting salary range of $17 to $22 per hour.

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.


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 admission criteria for each different dental assistant program major and delivery option. 

Program Course Requirements: Verification of Approved MN Department of Human Services Background Studies and 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/

Gainful Employment Programs

The U.S. Department of Education's (USDE) gainful employment regulations require disclosure of certain program information for programs that lead to certificates or diplomas and are financial aid eligible.

Dental Assistant Dipl 47 ge
Overview content updated: 2016-08-18
Contact Information
(507) 285-7210 or 1‑800‑247‑1296
Rochester Community and Technical College
851 30th Ave SE :: Rochester, MN 55904-4999
Celebrating 100 years!    1915-2015    www.rctc.edu/100th
Rochester Community and Technical College, a member of Minnesota State.
RCTC is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.
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