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Dental Assisting Certificate Training Vs. Degree

What’s the difference between a dental assistant certification training program and an associate degree in dental assisting? Simply put, a 2-year associate degree in dental assisting covers more material than a 9-12 month CDA training program.

Dental Assistant Certificate Training

An average dental assistant certification training program requires about 40 credit hours, and typically takes 9-12 months to complete. However, opting for strictly night classes can extend this timeline beyond one year. These relatively quick dental assisting programs will prepare you for the Dental Assisting National Board's Certified Dental Assistant examination (CDA).

The CDA exam includes 3 components:

  • General Chairside Assisting
  • Radiation Health and Safety
  • Infection Control

Dental Assisting Associate Degree

An average associate degree in dental assisting requires 70-80 credit hours and typically takes two years to complete. An associate degree at some colleges may prepare you for one of the advanced certificate exams offered by DANB such as the CPFDA or the CRFDA.


The Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant exam has 3 components:

  • Coronal Polish
  • Sealants
  • Topical Fluoride


The Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant examination has 6 components:

  • Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology
  • Impressions
  • Isolation
  • Sealants
  • Temporaries
  • Restorative Functions

However, not all associate degree courses will train you for these more advanced DANB exams. Some associate degree programs will focus only on the CDA exam, plus lab and other specialized technology. It really depends on the school and program you choose.

Find certificate training or associate degree courses at a school near you.



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