How to become a Dental Assistant

There is a shortage of dental assistants in Minnesota, which means there are more jobs than candidates.  This is good for increasing the hourly rate of employees!  There are several CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) dental assisting programs in the state of Minnesota.  Students are required to complete the following prior to first semester:

  • High School Diploma or GED
  • Tetanus vaccination (TDAP) within the last 10 years
  • Hepatitis B Vaccination (2 vaccinations of a series of 3 must be completed)
  • Mantoux testing upon entrance into first semester courses

The dental assisting program takes about 16 months of full time credits to complete.  The program can be quite intense as there is a lot of education taught in a condensed amount of time.  A dental assistant student can develop lifelong friendships with other classmates as you work so close with each other. 

Upon completion of general classes and various dental classes, you will be required to do two externships.  One of the two offices you will “work” at will provide general dentistry.  The second office will be a specialty office.  You will most likely make your top 3 choices of specialties that you may be interested in as a Licensed Dental Assistant.  Examples are Orthodontic, Pediatric Dentistry, Oral Surgery, and Endodontic. During your externship experience, you will present yourself to your assigned office, following that particular office’s hours of operation.  You will not be licensed at this point (as this is part of your education), however, you will be able to work as a dental assistant to put all of your hard work of studying, exams, and lab time into action. 

Once you’ve graduated from the program, you won’t be licensed until you take and pass the State Licensure Examination (it costs $75 to take, the exam consists of 165 questions, and candidates have two and a half hours to complete it.) and the State Jurisprudence Examination (it costs $65 to take, the exam consists of 100 questions, and takes one and a half hours to complete).  Finally, after your education and examination requirements are met, prospective LDAs in Minnesota may apply for licensure through the Minnesota Board of Dentistry (costs $96.50). 

Once you are a Licensed Dental Assistant, you may renew your license through the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.  Licenses expire every two years.  During those two years, LDAs are expected to complete 25 credit hours of continuing education.  At least 15 of those CDEs must be at the fundamental level, and 10 CDEs must be at the elective level.  At least two courses must be completed in different core subject areas (core subject areas include diagnosis/treatment, managing medical emergencies, record keeping, patient communications, ethics and infection control.)

Additionally, CPR certification must be maintained in order to maintain LDA licensure in Minnesota. 

All LDAs must maintain documentation of CDE for 24 months after each renewal period in case of a Board audit.