Frequently Asked Questions

In order to learn more about the Dental Assisting (DA) program at CPCC as well as the DA profession, please review the frequently asked questions below.


    Q. What kind of work does a dental assistant perform?

    A. Dental Assistants are Dental Health professionals who specialize in educational, restorative, and preventative oral health care for the public. They assist the dentist in chair side procedures and may also work independently as a restorative, expanded functions dental assistant. Dental Assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties including:

    • Assisting the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures.
    • Exposing and processing dental radiographs (x-rays).
    • Asking about the patient’s medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse.
    • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth for models.
    • Helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment.
    • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health; e.g., tooth brushing, flossing, and nutritional counseling.


    Q. What does a dental assistant earn?

    A. According to the 2014 DANB Salary Survey, Dental Assistants in North Carolina earn a median hourly wage of $18.00.

    Q. Where do dental assistants work?

    A. Nearly all dental assistants work in dentists' offices. However, in addition to traditional dental practices, dental assistants have the opportunity to work in specialty areas such as:

    • Oral and maxillofacial surgery: Removal of teeth and correction of facial deformities
    • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics: Straightening teeth with braces or other appliances
    • Endodontics: Root canal treatment
    • Periodontics: Treatment of gum problems
    • Prosthodontics: Replacement of lost teeth
    • Pediatric dentistry: Treatment of children

    Q. What is the job outlook for dental assistants?

    A. The number of dental assistants nationwide is expected to increase from 303,200 dental assistants employed in 2012 to 377,600 by 2022, a rate of growth of 25% which is much higher than normal compared to other occupations.

    Q. Is there room for advancement in the professional field?

    A. Experienced dental assistants may be promoted to an office manager or supervisor position. Other career paths for dental assistants include:

    • Insurance claims processing
    • Teaching
    • Dental product sales representative


    Q. What is the difference between the Dental Assisting and the Dental Hygiene programs?

    A. The Dental Assisting Program is a one year diploma program which enables graduates to participate as part of the dental office team. Dental Hygiene is a two year program in which graduates earn an Associate's Degree. Both programs have a different set of prerequisite requirements. In the professional setting, dental assistants typically work more closely with the dentists with occasional independence while dental hygienists work independently with assistance from the dentist.

    Q. What type of degree will I earn in the Dental Assisting program?

    A. A Diploma in Dental Assisting is awarded by the college upon successful completion of this program.

    Q. Is the TEAS test required for admission to the Dental Assisting program?

    A. No, the TEAS test is not required for admission to the Dental Assisting program.

    Q. What courses do I need to take prior to participating in the DA program?

    A. Applicants must complete all Developmental Studies Courses (if required) with a grade of C or better prior to the application deadline for the Dental Assisting program. While not required, it is highly recommended that students complete the following courses prior to beginning the program if possible: BIO 163 or BIO 168 and 169 (within 10 years of applying); COM 231 or COM 110 or COM 120; ENG 111.

    Q. What is the estimated cost to participate in the DA program?

    A. For tuition, fees, uniforms, national board exam fees, and other program-specific expenses, the estimated cost for three semesters in the Dental Assisting program is $6,000. This estimate does not include expenses for any necessary general education (non-DEN) courses but does include the cost of the three certification exams that make up the Certified Dental Assistant credential.

    Q. Are there risks associated with studying to work in the dental field?

    A. Students in the dental field are at a higher risk than the general population for Hepatitis B. It is to the advantage of the student to start the vaccination process for Hepatitis B as soon as they become accepted into the program. Medical history and documentation forms will be distributed at the orientation following acceptance.  Any applicant who is aware that they are carriers of Hepatitis B or C or are HIV positive are required to advise the State Department of Human Resources regarding ability to have patient contact.

    Students accepted into the Dental Assisting Program at Central Piedmont Community College will be required to read and sign a Bloodborne Pathogen Form and OSHA's Hazard Communication Form at the Mandatory Orientation Session for new dental assisting students.

    Q. Is the CPCC Dental Assisting program accredited?

    A. Yes, the Dental Assisting program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

    Q. If I am interested in applying to CPCC's Dental Assisting program, what is my next step?

    A. All students need to complete the CPCC application and submit appropriate documents for admission to CPCC before applying to the DA program. Once the application has been submitted and accepted, a student can apply to the DA program.

      Q. After I apply, when will I learn if I am accepted?

      A. Notification letters are typically mailed 4 weeks after the application deadline. Please wait until this time before contacting the admissions specialist.

      Q. Is there a credential available for Dental Assisting?

      A. Yes, students in the DA program are challenged to take the three Dental Assisting National Board exams that make up the Certified Dental Assistant credential. The three exams are Infection Control, Radiation Health and Safety, and General Chairside. The exams cost $550 total, a cost included in the program cost estimate, and passing all three exams will result in the certification. There is no consequence in terms of progressing in the DA program if a student does not pass any of the exams, and the National Board allows students to retake the exams after a waiting period of a few weeks.

      Q. What are the Criminal Background Check and Drug Screen requirements?

      A. Criminal Background Check and Drug screen: All accepted students are required to undergo a criminal background check and drug screen. Procedural information concerning these requirements will be provided upon acceptance.

      • Note: Criminal background checks (CBCs) and drug screens are required by clinical agencies/healthcare systems. If a student is refused access to clinical experiences because of a positive CBC or drug screen, the student will be unable to complete the clinical component of the course. Inability to complete the clinical requirements will result in a failure to progress in the program.

      Under North Carolina law some people with criminal backgrounds may be eligible for an expunction to remove charges or convictions from their record. If you would like to know whether or not you are eligible, contact Single Stop at 704.330.2722 ext.: 6435 or email to schedule a legal consultation. To learn more about expunctions, explore the NC Justice Center’s guide.