How to Become a Dental Assistant in Tennessee

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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Tennessee

To become accredited by the Tennessee Board of Dentistry, you can choose between 2 types of dental assistant classes:

  • Practical Dental Assistant – if you train in a dental office
  • Registered Dental Assistant – if you comply with the experience and schooling criteria set by the Tennessee Board of Dentistry

All job responsibilities require a supervisor, and a trainee cannot engage in duties as:

  • Duties that need dentist skills
  • Duties that infringe on specific tasks that may only be assigned to a dental hygienist
  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Oral surgery
  • Permanent fillings
  • Administering anesthetics
  • Administering nitrous oxide

As a Registered Dental Assistant, you get the option to get specialized in one of the following:

  • Dental Radiology
  • Coronal Polishing
  • Monitoring Nitrous Oxide
  • Sealant Application
  • Prosthetic Function
  • Restorative Function

To get any of the certifications, you need to attend a program approved by the Board.

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If you choose to get additional certifications, you have higher chances of receiving a higher salary.

Schools Offering Dental Assisting Programs in Tennessee

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Nashville $35,029
Memphis $35,004
Knoxville $34,921
Chattanooga $34,056
Clarksville $33,954
Murfreesboro $34,764
Franklin $34,905
Jackson $34,740
Johnson City $32,875
Hendersonville $34,976

Regional Salary in Tennessee

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Chattanooga, TN-GA640$43,210$20.77$56,680$31,190
Clarksville, TN-KY330$40,100$19.28$48,110$30,490
Cleveland, TN130$38,310$18.42$47,490$29,510
Jackson, TN180$39,290$18.89$48,170$30,250
Johnson City, TN240$40,540$19.49$47,320$31,620
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA310$39,170$18.83$48,010$30,120
Knoxville, TN960$40,770$19.6$49,240$30,550
Memphis, TN-MS-AR1,020$41,880$20.13$55,150$30,970
Morristown, TN90$39,170$18.83$49,280$29,140
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN2,330$41,540$19.97$54,890$34,310
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Dental Assistants, OCC Code 31-9091, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Registered Dental Assistant

You have to register with the Board and meet the following criteria:

  • Submit 2 recommendation letters from professional dentists
  • A CPR certification from either Basic Life Support (BLS) Healthcare Provider or CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer
  • High school diploma/GED
  • Having a permit for working in the US

After gathering the paperwork, you need to send the application to the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

You can also send in an application to certify in:

  • Coronal Polishing Certification
  • Sealant Application Certification
  • Monitoring Nitrous Oxide Certification
  • Restorative Function Certification
  • Prosthetic Function Certification
  • Dental Radiology Certification

Coronal Polishing License

To get this license, you need to finish a 2-day course and 14 hours in:

  • Theory:
    • Principles of stain and plaque formation
    • Clinical appearance of plaque, calculus, and clean polished teeth
    • Tooth morphology and the anatomy of the oral cavity
    • Principles of polishing
    • Principles of aseptic technique
    • Principles of application, and preparation of teeth for, fluoride treatment
  • Practice:
    • Polishing exposed teeth surfaces
    • Identification of plaque, calculus, and stains
    • Application of fluoride and desensitization agents
  • Jurisprudence study:
    • Limits of practice in accordance with the statutes and rules of the Tennessee Board of Dentistry
    • Reporting violations
    • Penalties relating to dental malpractice

You also need to take the final tests.

Sealant Application License

You need 6 hours of class, from which 4 must be practical classes.

These include:

  • Theory:
    • Indications and contra-indications for sealants
    • Education of patients and/or parents of sealant purpose
    • Preparation of teeth for sealants
    • Teeth isolation and moisture control techniques, such as rubber dams, dri-angles, cotton roles, and retractors
    • Armamentarium
  • Practice:
    • Patient assessment and patient education
    • Infection control
    • Sealant placement evaluation
    • Placement of pit and fissure sealants
    • A final written exam that includes successfully sealing four teeth

Monitoring Nitrous Oxide License

It requires 5 hours of education, and includes topics such as:

  • Psychology, philosophy, and history of nitrous oxide sedation by inhalation
  • Physiological and psychological aspects of pain and anxiety
  • Stages of drug-induced central nervous system depression
  • Anatomy and physiology of respiration
  • Physiological and pharmacological effects of nitrous oxide inhalation
  • Advantages and disadvantages of nitrous oxide sedation
  • Prevention and management of life-threatening situations arising from nitrous oxide inhalation

After the classes, you will also need to take an exam.

Restorative Function License

You need to finish the course of a restorative function, and have a 2 years experience as a Registered Dental Assistant within the past 3 years,

The course must involve 96 hours in 3 weeks, and the topics include:

Week 1:

  • Dental occlusion and morphology
  • Dental product safety and hazardous materials
  • Principles of cavity preparation
  • Instrumentation for restorations
  • Bases and liners, placement and types

Week 2:

  • Rubber dam placement and isolation
  • Caries
  • Insertion, carving, and packing of amalgam, including a lab on this topic
  • Placement and selection of matrix retainers

Week 3:

  • Carving, insertion, and packing of glass ionomers
  • Laboratory on the carving, insertion, and packing of glass ionomers

Before getting your license, you will need to take an exam and a clinical test.

Prosthetic Function License

You need to finish the course of a prosthetic function and have 2 years of experience as a Registered Dental Assistant within the past 3 years.

Week 1:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Dentulous soft tissue, such as the gingival sulcus
  • Edentulous soft tissue
  • Principles of soft-tissue management
  • Tray selection and impression materials
  • Master impressions and border molding
  • Fixed prosthodontic impressions

Week 2:

  • Methods of gingival retraction
  • Pharmacology of medications and techniques for placement
  • Techniques for making impressions
  • Laboratory practice for fixed impressions with infection control techniques
  • Fabrication, placement, and polishing of temporary restoration

When the classes end, you will need to take an exam.

Dental Radiography License

You will need to take a class that lasts for 14 hours and approved by the Board.

The topics include:

  • Radiographic exposure and evaluation techniques
  • Radiographic equipment
  • Patient management techniques
  • Radiation safety for the patient and operator
  • Quality assurance
  • Exposure errors
  • Mounting and labeling radiographs for diagnostic assessments
School Name Address
Chattanooga College Medical Dental and Technical Careers 3805 Brainerd Rd, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37411-3742
Chattanooga State Community College 4501 Amnicola Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37406-1097
Concorde Career College 5100 Poplar Avenue, Suite 132, Memphis, Tennessee 38137-0132
Miller-Motte Technical College 6020 Shallowford Road Suite 100, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421
Northeast State Community College 2425 Hwy 75, Blountville, Tennessee 37617-0246
Remington College 441 Donelson Pk Ste 150, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
Tennessee College of Applied Technology 740 Hwy 46, Dickson, Tennessee 37055
Tennessee College of Applied Technology 1100 Liberty St, Knoxville, Tennessee 37919
Tennessee College of Applied Technology 550 Alabama Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38105-3604
Volunteer State Community College 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066-3188
Remington College 2710 Nonconnah Blvd Memphis, TN 38132
Tennessee College of Applied Technology 100 White Bridge Road Nashville, TN 37209
Dental Assistant School of Nashville 1800 Mallory Ln Ste A, Brentwood, TN 37027-2818
Dental Staff School of Tennessee 130 Seaboard Lane, Suite A-1 Franklin, TN 37067
Excel Dental Training Institute 5114 Old Hickory Blvd, Suite 200 HermitageTN37076
Dental Staff School 1715 Downtown West Blvd Knoxville, TN 37919
The Dental Assistant School of Memphis 1195 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38105
Ross Medical Education Center 3021 East Oakland Avenue Johnson City, TN 37601
Ross Medical Education Center 206 North Seven Oaks Drive Knoxville, TN 37922
South College 616 Marriott Dr. Nashville, TN 37214
South College 400 Goodys Ln Knoxville, TN 37922
Genesis Career College Cookeville, TN 880-A East 10th St. Cookeville, TN 38501
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Keeping Your Licenses Up-to-Date

You need to take 24 hours of classes every 2 years in order to keep your license updated unless you have to renew your Registered Dental Assistant license for the first time.

These classes must relate to chemical dependency and the field of dentistry.

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