In this program, students will be taught the essentials of working chairside with a dentist to maintain a patient’s oral health.  Training consists of classroom hours, practice in the state-of-the-art dental training lab, and 240 required internship hours in a dental office. Upon completion, students will be eligible to register with the Dental Board of California as Registered Dental Assistants (RDA).  Click on the Program Guide button for current fees, schedules, and requirements.

Learning Outcomes

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 Dental Board of California 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 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:
  • 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.
Chairside Procedures
  • 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.
Dental Radiography
  • Expose and develop x-rays.
  • Pass the California State Radiation Safety Test before starting Internship class.
Laboratory Procedures
  • 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 at least 18 or older
  • Attend a Career Training Orientation
  • Attend First Class day for the dental assistant program
  • 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 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 - Thursday, 7:30 am - 4:00 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 for the 23-24 school year will be $1,225. Payment is due in full at the time of registration.  
Are there any additional costs associated with the program?
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 $300 and may include:
  • Scrubs
  • Textbooks
  • Fingerprinting
  • RDA Examination fee
Is financial aid or tuition assistance available?
As a K-12 adult school we are unable to offer financial aid. We do partner with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, local career centers, and other organizations whenever possible to offer opportunities for fees to be reduced or covered for qualified participants. For more information on what is available for this program, attend an orientation and/or connect with a transition services specialist.
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.

Job Outlook

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.    
Kaylia Davis, RDA
Kaylia Davis graduated from our dental assisting program here at HOC in 2014. She came back and became one of the instructors for the program in 2023. She is in the process of finishing up courses to obtain her Designated Subjects Teaching Credential to teach Career Technical Education courses in California.  She has certification for X-ray, Coronal Polishing, Pit and Fissure, Sealants, Dental Practice Act, and Infection Control. Kaylia has worked in the dental field for 10 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.
dental  x-ray  dental  books  skeletons  dental

Next Steps

I'm interested!  What are my next steps?
The dental assistant program accepts students twice a year through the orientation and First Class day process.  Check the Program Guide for the next class start dates. Visit the How to Get Started page now.
Refund Policy
Refunds for this class must be requested by the end of the second week of class.  A $25.00 processing fee will be charged.  No refunds on printing packet or dental kit.