Program Fact Sheet

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Diploma Program

What is a Dental Assistant?
A dental assistant works directly with a dentist to handle instruments, supplies and equipment, and to assist the dentist as needed. The DA provides direct patient care and is responsible for maintaining sterile and safe conditions during dental procedures. A DA may work in general dentistry, or in a specialty field such as orthodontics or oral surgery. Average salaries are $13-17 per hour. Learn more about the career at

Minimum Age Requirement
18 years of age at the start of program

Prerequisite Courses
ALL of the following:
  • ENGL 1010 or ENGL 1101
  • FYES 1000
  • MATH 1012 or MATH 1111
  • PSYC 1010 or PSYC 1101
  • ALHS 1011* or (BIOL 2113/L* and BIOL 2114/L*)

Additional Required Course

AHLS 1040* required for completion of diploma, but is not a prerequisite. Recommended to be taken prior to acceptance; otherwise it must be taken summer semester after acceptance.

*Courses must be completed within five years of the competitive program File Completion deadline.


Length of Program

3 semesters (not including prerequisite courses); Program courses must be taken in sequence within the prescribed time frame.


Semester Program Begins
Summer Semester; Full time; Day classes only


General Admission Application Process
  1. Apply to Gwinnett Technical College at and submit all transcripts from high school and previous college work, and take the ACCUPLACER test if required. You must be accepted into Gwinnett Technical College prior to applying to a program of study.
  2. Applicants are initially accepted into the Healthcare Assistant Certificate program while completing the required prerequisite courses


Program Application Process

All applicants are required to submit a program packet. Forms are available online at Gwinnett Tech's Forms and Documents Page.


Program Deadlines

Summer Application Deadline: March 22
Prerequisite Deadline: End of Spring Semester


Competitive Admissions

Candidates are scored and ranked based on: prerequisite courses GPA
Obtain two recent professional letters of recommendation.


Program Costs and Requirements

A student can expect to pay on top of tuition: approximately $950 for: uniforms; malpractice insurance; textbooks; other incidental costs. All costs are approximated and are subject to change.


Dental Assisting

Quick Facts

2015 Median Pay $35,980 per year/ $17.30 per hour
Entry Level Education Diploma
Number of Jobs, 2014 318,800
Job growth, 2014-24 18% (much faster than average)

Nature of the Work

Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. They sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, provide appropriate instruments and materials required to treat each patient, and obtain and update patients’ dental records. Assistants make patients comfortable in the dental chair and prepare them for treatment. During dental procedures, assistants work alongside the dentist to provide assistance. They hand instruments and materials to dentists and keep patients’ mouths dry and clear by using suction hoses or other devices. They also instruct patients on postoperative and general oral healthcare.

Dental assistants may prepare materials for impressions and restorations and process dental x-rays as directed by a dentist. They also may remove sutures, apply topical anesthetics to gums or cavity-preventive agents to teeth, remove excess cement used in the filling process, and place dental dams to isolate teeth for treatment. Dental assistants with laboratory duties make casts of the teeth and mouth from impressions, clean and polish removable appliances, and make temporary crowns. Those with office duties schedule and confirm appointments, receive patients, keep treatment records, send bills, receive payments, and order dental supplies and materials.

Work Environment

Dental assistants work in a well-lighted, clean environment. Their work area is usually near the dental chair so that they can arrange instruments, materials, and medication and hand them to the dentist when needed. Dental assistants wear personal protective equipment as recommended for infectious disease prevention and are trained in the CDC recommendations for sharps injury prevention, and radiology health and safety.

Most dental assistants work full time. However, nearly 1 in 3 assistants worked part time in 2014. Some may work evenings or weekends.


The employment opportunities include general dentistry; group practice; specific dental specialties such as oral surgery, endodontics, orthodontics, prosthetics, periodontics, and periodontics; dental school clinics; federal, state, and community clinics. Other opportunities include managing a dental business office, working in a major dental manufacturing or insurance company, serving in the armed forces, or teaching or working in research and development at a college or other agency.

Dental assistants held about 318,800 jobs nationally in 2014. About 93 percent of all jobs for dental assistants were in offices of dentists. Employment is expected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.


Median annual wages nationally of dental assistants were $35,980 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,660. Benefits vary substantially by practice setting and may be contingent upon fulltime employment.