What certification will I receive after completing the program?
The dental assistant program is accredited by the Dental Board of CA
and students qualify to take the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam. Upon successful completion of the course and examination, students can be licensed as a Registered Dental Assistant and seek employment.
What will I learn in the dental assistant program?
This course prepares the student to work as a Dental Assistant. Instruction includes sterilization techniques, X-rays, coronal polishing, pit and fissure sealants, chair side assisting and some basic front office procedures including computer skills. This course is approved by the Board of Dental Examiners and meets the standards of a Registered Dental Assistant program. Upon completion of the course, the student will be eligible to take the Registered Dental Assistant Exam. A total of 800 hours of instruction is required for certification and for compliance with the California State Dental Practice Act. This instruction is delivered in two components: a 560-hour theory/lab class and a 240-hour Internship.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
General knowledge and skills:
- Define the role of the Dental Assistant.
- Communicate respectfully and effectively with patients under varying situations, with acceptance of diversity.
- Discuss OSHA regulations which are mandated for workers in a dental setting.
- Research opportunities for career advancement and continuing education.
- Achieve certification in Basic Life Support for the Healthcare Provider, according to the American Heart Association standards.
- Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing.
- Obtain and record patient medical and dental histories and alert dentist to significant findings.
- Take and record patient vital signs, pulse and respiration.
- Prepare armamentarium in proper sequence for dental procedures.
- Give postoperative instructions, prescribed by the dentist, to patients.
- Discuss auxiliary responsibilities when drugs are administered.
- Demonstrate methods of sterilization, disinfection, care and maintenance of instruments and materials commonly used in a dental office.
- Maintain operatory equipment and instruments, including storage, lubrication and sterilization.
- Demonstrate good oral hygiene techniques and explain reasons for and effects of good dental care.
- Assist in the administration of nitrous oxide analgesia or sedative.
- Demonstrate isolation preparation and application of topical fluoride to all teeth.
- Demonstrate isolation and placement of rubber dams.
- Access and utilize technology and information relevant to the dental profession.
- Expose and develop x-rays.
- Pass the California State Radiation Safety Test before starting Internship class.
- Demonstrate efficient manipulative skills in handling preliminary impressions for study models.
- Pour up and trim an impression using plaster and alginate (irreversible hydrocolloid) impressions.
- Construct temporary restorations in quadrant specified by instructor.
Front Office Procedures
- Schedule appointments to provide the dentist and staff with a balanced and varied workload.
- Explain how to order, when to order and from whom to order products typically used in a dental office.
- Prepare patient ledgers, with charges, payments, and balances.
- Use the computer to process documents, create and maintain patient charts, schedule appointments, produce correspondence, send out appointment reminders and billing statements, and keep inventory.
Registered Dental Assistant Functions
- Locate presence of supragingival calculus, plaque, inflammation, bleeding, mobile and malpositioned teeth, fixed and removable prosthesis and other soft tissue abnormalities.
- Place and remove temporary dressings.
- Select and use proper armamentarium to dry root canals.
- Obtain an endodontic culture.
- Isolate, prepare and test for tooth vitality.
- Apply appropriate base and liner for a prepared tooth.
- Size and prepare stainless steel and temporary crowns.
- Select, prepare, cement, and remove temporary crowns, according to dental state board of regulations.
- Place and legate arch wires.
- Place orthodontic separators using criteria set by the Board of Dental Examiners.
- Place and remove periodontal dressing with minimal amount of tissue trauma.
- Demonstrate proper polishing techniques, practicing patient and operator safety based on COMDA standards.
What are the requirements to take this course?
- Be 18 or older
- Attend a mandatory orientation either in person or by Zoom
- Proof of required immunizations (list will be provided at registration)
- Be a high school graduate or equivalent (must provide a copy of transcript or diploma)
Please check the program guide to for the most current list of requirements.
When is the dental assistant program offered?
This is a 1-semester course (5 months) that is offered twice a year starting in August and January. The course is Monday - Friday, 7:30 am - 3:00 pm. Following the completion of the program all students are required to complete a 240 hour internship at a dental office to graduate from the program and be eligible to site for the RDA examination.
Please check the program guide to for the most current schedule.
How much does the dental assistant program cost?
The program registration fee is $1350 and is due in full at the time of registration.
Are there any additional costs associated with the program?
Yes. All RDA eligible students will need to complete an American Heart Association (AHA) approved Basic Life Support course. We offer the course at the beginning of each semester for $55. Additional fees that need to be considered average approximately $330 and may include:
- RDA Examination fee
Is financial aid or tuition assistance available?
Tuition assistance may be available to those that qualify through the East County Career Center (ECCC). Contact ECCC
for more information.
What is the refund policy?
Students have until the last day of the second week of class to request a refund for the registration fee minus a $25 processing fee.
Prices subject to change. Please check the program guide to for the most current cost.
What is the job outlook?
According to the California Economic Development Department, employment opportunities for dental assistants are predicted to increase by 16.5% or 8,000 jobs between 2016 and 2026. Explore the links below for more information about the labor market for dental asistants.
Diana Harshman, RDA
Diana Harshman has been the program director and instructor in the dental assistant program since 1998. She is also a graduate of the program. She holds a Designated Subjects Teaching Credential to teach Career Technical Education courses in California, as well as her RDA license. She has certification for X-ray, Coronal Polishing, Pit and Fissure, Sealants, Dental Practice Act, and Infection Control. Diana worked in the dental field as an RDA for 11 years.
Theresa Roberts, RDA
Theresa Roberts started as an instructor in the dental assistant program at HOC in 2010. She holds a Designated Subjects Teaching Credential to teach Career Technical Education courses in California, as well as her RDA license. She has certification for X-ray, Ultra Scaling, Coronal Polishing, and Pit and Fissure. Theresa worked in the dental field in all aspects of the dental office for 27 years.
Where is training for the program completed?
Course work for the dental assistant program is performed in our new state of the art dental lab, completed in January 2020, located at the Health Occupations Center in Santee. The lab is fully stocked with 3 dental chair stations and 2 dental x-ray rooms. We use federal Perkins grant funding to purchase up-to-date equipment used in the dental field based on advice from our advisors and stakeholders that we consult annually. Our most recent purchases include Dexter heads with cadaver teeth, updated x-ray arms, 12 o'clock stations for each dental chair, and intraoral cameras.
Students that successfully complete the on campus instruction are eligible for placement in the 240-hour internship that will occur in dental offices throughout the county.
I'm interested! What are my next steps?
The dental assistant program accepts students twice a year through an orientation and application process. Check the Program Guide for the next class start date. If you would like to pursue a career as a dental assistant click the How to Get Started button under the Menu or visit the How to Get Started
page for the orientation video and application process.