Dental Assistant | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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Dental Assistant

Through our Dental Assistant Program, students receive training in patient care and office skills and become an integral part of the dental health care team. 

About the Dental Assistant Program:

NWACC's Dental Assistant Program teaches students how to assist dentists and increase the efficiency in delivering oral health care. Classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction will provide students with a broad background in all aspects of dentistry.

Students will become proficient in patient care, such as dietary counseling, monitoring vital signs, administering and monitoring nitrous oxide, taking impressions, and providing post-operative care and instructions. Students will also obtain office skills such as customer service and computer proficiency. 

Students are required to complete 120+ hours of internships in local dental offices, dental labs, or other dental experiences. Students will need to have their own transportation to and from the various clinical sites.

Once the Dental Assistant Program is completed, students will receive a Dental Assisting Technical Certificate and a Certificate of Proficiency in Dental Assisting. Students with additional hours may qualify for an Associate Degree in General Studies with the Dental Assisting hours fulfilling the elective credit requirements.

What's the Difference Between a Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist?

A Dental Assistant works directly with the dentist to correct or restore issues with a patient's teeth. They are educated in every procedure the dentist performs in order to prepare the treatment room, explain the procedure to the patient, assist the dentist, perform needed laboratory duties, document procedures performed, and safely clean and prepare the area for the next patient. Each dentist may have two or more dental assistants in order to see numerous patients during the day. Dental assistants typically have a Dental Assisting Technical Certificate and a Certificate of Proficiency in Dental Assisting. 

A Dental Hygienist has a separate appointment schedule from the dentist and is primarily concerned with the hygiene and health of a patient's mouth. Patients see a Dental Hygienist when going in for their six month check-up and exam. Dental Hygienist must have either an Associate or Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene.

Some duties overlap between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist. With appropriate permits/licenses, each are able to take x-rays, take impressions, and place sealants. 

Note: Students planning on applying to a dental hygiene program should research two or three college programs and use that college's degree prerequisites as a guide when selecting courses at NWACC. In general, the prerequisites will follow an Associate Degree of Science.

Skills and Ability Requirements

Those who have successfully completed the program and have gained employment as Dental Assistants, possess the following qualities:

  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Able to work with others as a team
  • Detail oriented
  • Good oral and written skills
  • Able to sit and stand for extended periods of time

Program Costs

Below is an approximate list of costs associated with the Dental Assistant Program (this is in addition to tuition and fees):

  • Scrubs: $50 to $75 per set. One set needed for Fall and another set for Spring.
  • Travel costs to and from the Fayetteville location.
  • Background check
  • Drug test