Dental Assistant Program

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.  Minnesota licensed dental assistants function as “dental nurses” in the dental practice, providing direct support to the dentist as well as providing direct patient care.

The job description of a dental assistant includes: patient communications and oral hygiene instruction, preparation of instruments and treatment rooms, chairside assisting, expanded functions, instrument recirculation and sterilization, dental laboratory procedures, dental safety 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 tooth polishing, taking radiographs, applying dental sealants, taking impressions, tying in orthodon’tic 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, clinical experiences, and focus on professionalism required to make the graduate a valuable member of the dental health care profession.


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, where patients come 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 a 47 credit diploma option and a 64 credit Associate in Applied Science degree option, both of which may be completed in one or two years. 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

Dental Assisting is a career that is in high demand and includes excellent work schedules, attractive compensation packages and pleasant work environments. The 2016 RCTC Dental Assisting graduates reported starting salaries between $19 and $26 per hour.   A dental assistant may be employed in a general dental practice or specialty dental practice (ie. Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodon’tics, Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgery, Endodon’tics, Periodon’tics and Prosthodon’tics).  Dental assistants may also 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. For additional information on the most current list of RCTC program articulations see us at:

Additional Information
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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.  The most current RCTC gainful employment information can be found at:

Program Award Credits Gainful
Dental Assistant Dipl 47 Overview content updated: 2017-04-17