Dental Assistant Program

Career/Program Overview

A dental assistant is a vital member of the dental health care team, functioning like a “dental nurse” to support the dentist and provide direct patient care. Dental assistants enjoy a broad range of exciting and challenging duties, including assisting for diagnostic, preventive and operative procedures, delivering oral hygiene instruction, performing instrument and treatment room decontamination, and dental laboratory and business office procedures. Minnesota licensed dental assistants also perform a group of special duties called expanded functions, which includes procedures such as mechanical polishing, taking dental x-rays, applying dental sealants, tying in orthodontic wires, fabricating temporary crowns, and administering nitrous oxide sedation.

Graduates are eligible to sit for the Minnesota licensure exam, Minnesota jurisprudence exam and the national certification exam for dental assistants.


The curriculum is designed to provide the student with the technical knowledge, clinical experiences and focus on professionalism required to enter the dental 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 on-site 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 clinic. In the final semester of the program, students will further their clinical experience by completing three internships in different dental offices in southeastern Minnesota, two in general dental practices and one in a specialty dental practice.

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 a specialty dental practice, including Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics, Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgery, Endodontics, Periodontics and Prosthodontics.  Dental assistants may also be employed in solo or group dental practices, hospital dentistry, research institutions, government dental facilities, or dental training facilities.


The RCTC Dental Assistant program is accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation.  For more information on the most current list of RCTC program articulations see us at

Additional Information

Program Website/Program Application:
Program Plan:
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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