Best Dental Assistant Schools in North Carolina – 2023

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

If you’re good at working with your hands, and you enjoy helping others, dental assisting may be a great career choice. North Carolina recognizes two classifications in this career track: dental assistant I and dental assistant II.

As a dental assistant I in North Carolina, you’ll be able to perform a limited number of basic supportive procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. No formal education or certification requirements exist. The dental assistant II classification gives you a much-expanded scope of practice, but in order to qualify for this designation, you’ll need to have graduated from an accredited dental assistant program. We’ve compiled this list of the best dental assistant schools in North Carolina to help you on your way.

What Skills and Knowledge will I Gain from a Dental Assisting Program?

Efficiency is critically important for health professionals, and a dental assistant program in NC will help you learn to provide care in a systematic and organized fashion. You'll learn the fundamentals of dental pharmacology and dental materials. You’ll be taught the skills you need for the job in accordance with the protocols that were used to develop those skills. You’ll have the opportunity to practice those skills in a safe laboratory setting, and you’ll be able to refine those skills further under the tutelage of a practicing dentist when you perform your clinical rotations.

Dental Assistant Program Length & Cost in North Carolina

Dental assistant students in the Tar Heel State can choose between two training curricula. A certificate/diploma program will take between 6 and 15 months to complete while an associate degree will take two years. If you get your diploma at a community college, it can cost you as little as $2,060; if you opt for a technical college, you may end up spending as much as $24,090. To attain an associate degree, you’ll spend between $6,030 and $36,870.

Type of Program Length Cost
Certificate / Diploma6 – 15 Months$2,060 - $24,090
Associate Degree2 Years$6,030 - $36,870


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, below are the 10 best dental assistant programs in North Carolina. The list includes both campus-based and online programs.)

1) Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s dental assisting students graduate with a solid grounding in technical, clinical and administrative skills. Students are encouraged to participate in community service and professional organizations to further their professional and personal growth.

The college offers a dental assisting diploma for those who are interested in making a foray into this dental field. In 12 months, you will be trained with general education, biomedical, dental sciences, and clinical courses to gain expertise in entry-level dental assisting skills. You will go through class work, lab training, and clinical experiences to complete this 46-credit dental assisting coursework. Upon completion of the coursework, you will be eligible to take the national certification exam.

2) Central Carolina Community College, Sanford

Central Carolina Community College trains students with job-ready skills in its state-of-the-art facility that offers ADEC patient chairs, x-ray machine, and digital patient recordkeeping software. To enhance professional skills, the college offers an internship opportunity at a local dentist’s office.

This one-year diploma in dental assisting offered by the college starts in August and admits only 18 students per year. The program prepares students for the national and state certification exams and to perform functions required while assisting a dentist during dental procedures. You will learn to maintain patient records, sterilize, keep the equipment ready, take dental x-rays, apply dental sealants, and manage the administrative functions of a dental office. Upon graduation, you will be ready to explore career opportunities in general and pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics.

3) Wayne Community College, Goldsboro

Wayne Community College’s dental assisting education is facilitated by a dedicated and experienced faculty that works hand-in-hand with students to achieve a positive academic outcome.

This dental assistant school in North Carolina offers a diploma that takes one year to complete. Each year 24 students are admitted to complete a dynamic coursework that trains students with professional competence. To earn your diploma, you must successfully complete all the courses with a minimum grade “C.” The program starts with a course in achieving college success and progresses to courses in dental sciences, psychology, communication, anatomy, and physiology. After successful completion of all the courses, you will be able to work as an entry-level dental assistant at a variety of settings, including dental offices, private and government clinics, dental schools and dental supply companies.

4) Wake Technical Community College, Raleigh

Since 1989, Wake Technical Community has been offering quality dental assisting programs in the state. Through partnerships with local dental offices, the college provides for exceptional internship opportunities that often lead to job placements.

The college’s dental assisting diploma is dynamic and focuses on hands-on learning. The 48-credit coursework is offered on a full-time basis, with only day classes. The curriculum is a fine combination of dental science, general education, biomedical, and clinical courses. Practical learning is enhanced by varied clinical experiences at the college’s dental clinic, UNC School of Dentistry, Wake Smiles and private and general dental clinics in the surrounding areas.

5) Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte

Central Piedmont Community College offers dental assistant education that is employment ready and in tune with the demands of the industry. With its excellent teaching pedagogy, graduates are known to perform exceedingly well on the national certification exam.

For dental assistant aspirants, there is a one-year diploma program that spans three semesters. The coursework offers a broad knowledge base by training you in effective communication skills, critical thinking, and evidence-based decisions making, apart from dental assisting functions. Also, courses in infection control and dental radiography prepare for the dental radiation and infection control certification exams, a requirement to earn the certified dental assistant credential. The 47 credits coursework is delivered through rigorous class work, lab training, and clinical experiences.

6) Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown

Guilford Technical Community College mainly focuses on technical skills that are current and in demand in the dental field. Dental assistant students are trained by a faculty who bring in their years of work experience into the classroom.

The 43-credit diploma in dental assisting, offered by the college is a rigorous curriculum that prepares you with the required professional skills and knowledge to excel as an entry-level dental assistant. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the DANB certification exam to become a certified dental assistant. With courses in biomedical sciences, dental sciences, and clinical experiences, the program makes you competent in various functions such as taking ethical decisions while providing patient care, taking dental x-rays and managing the administrative affairs of a dental office.

7) Alamance Community College, Graham

Dental assistant training at Alamance Community College is intensive and prepares students with real-world skills that help them step into this field with confidence and proficiency.

The dental assisting program, offered by the college, takes 10 months to complete. Upon completion of the program, you will be eligible to take the national certification exam. Admission to this program is highly selective, so ensure you earn a minimum GPA of 2.0 in your previous college work and pass the placement tests to enhance your chances. Once enrolled, you must maintain a minimum grade “C” to progress through the program. For students with personal or professional responsibilities, there is an evening option that spans through seven semesters. It offers a flexible schedule except for the clinical rotation that requires a day commitment.

8) Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington

Cape Fear Community College provides a student-centric learning environment, where dental assistant students are nurtured to grow personally and professionally. Graduates of the college are successfully providing patient care at a variety of settings that includes private and government dental clinics and community health centers.

This dental assistant program in NC is a diploma that educates you through lectures, lab sessions, and clinical training. You will learn about dental procedures, dental materials, preventive dentistry, infection control, and dental radiography. During the three semesters of study, apart from the dental science courses, your coursework also includes learning computer software, psychology, anatomy and psychology, and communication. These courses enhance communication skills and interpersonal relations with patients and other members of the dental team.

9) Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fayetteville

Fayetteville Technical Community College’s commitment towards dental assistant training is evident from the conducive learning environment it provides. Its caring faculty and staff support students in their endeavor of achieving outstanding academic results.

To become a dental assistant in NC, you can consider this diploma that can be completed in three semesters. You will learn the skills and knowledge required to perform entry-level chair side assisting skills by completing a 46-credit coursework. With courses in human biology, oral anatomy, dental materials, infection control, dental radiology, dental sciences, and general psychology, you will be prepared to work as a dental assistant, dental office manager, an instructor and sales executive in dental sales.

10) Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, South Salisbury

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s dental assisting curriculum emphasizes on skills and knowledge that are currently in demand with the local employers. The faculty is supportive and cares about students achieving their career goals.

This dental assisting program offered by the college is a diploma that requires completing 45 credits. During the three-semester coursework, you will study dental science and general education courses and apply these acquired skills in a clinical setting. The courses you take include oral anatomy, dental materials, infection control, an introduction to anatomy and physiology, management of a dental office, dental radiography, dental sciences, communication and an introduction to computers. Upon completion of this program, you will be eligible to take the national certification exam and work in a variety of dental settings.


Dental Assistant Career Outlook in North Carolina - 2023

How Many Dental Assistants are Currently Employed in NC?


Where are Dental Assistants Currently Working in North Carolina?

If you work as a dental assistant in the Tar Heel State, chances are you’ll be one of the 10,960 dental assistants who are affiliated with a dental practice. That’s because in North Carolina, dental assistants can only operate under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. Expect your job responsibilities to vary according to whether you’re working for a solo practitioner or a group practice. You may also end up working in a specialty practice with a dentist who focuses on endodontics, periodontics or some other specialty.

Some 210 North Carolina dental assistants work in community clinics that are funded by federal, state or local tax dollars and that concentrate on providing dental care to low-income patients. Another 210 dental assistants are based in physician offices.

IndustryNumber of Dental Assistants
Offices of Dentists10,960
Outpatient Care Centers210
Offices of Physicians210

What is the Average Salary of a Dental Assistant in North Carolina?

The average dental assistant salary in North Carolina is $45,650 a year. Certified dental assistants are likely to earn higher salaries than assistants who are designated level I. Dental assistants who work 36 hours or more per week may also be eligible to receive benefits that include paid time off and health care insurance.

Type Salary
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Salary Based on Years of Experience

Years of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Less than 1 year (Starting) $16.39 $2,840 $34,090
1-4 years $18.39 $3,190 $38,260
5-9 years $22.18 $3,850 $46,140
10-19 years $23.55 $4,080 $48,980
20 years or more $29.30 $5,080 $60,950
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Dental Assistant Average Salary Comparison: North Carolina vs. National

In the Tar Heel State, dental assistants make appreciably more on average than they do in the nation as a whole. Although nearly 15 percent of the state’s population lives in poverty, North Carolina has many affluent cities and towns, too, and the demand for dental services in these locations is high.

North Carolina National Difference
Number %
$45,650 $44,710+$940+2.10%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

By 2030, the demand for dental assistants in North Carolina will increase by nearly 11% percent. This represents the state’s commitment to bringing better dental health services to populations in Camden County, Robeson County and other underserved areas across the state. But it also represents the prosperous climate in cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, which have become economic boomtowns. Upwardly mobile professionals understand that having great teeth and a winning smile are an important part of maintaining a competitive edge, and they’re willing to pay for dentistry services even when those services are not covered by insurance.

Employment Employment Growth (2020-2030)
2020 2030 Number Percent
(Source: careeronestop)

Annual Job Openings

New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
(Source: careeronestop)

Metro Wise Employment & Salary Data

Charlotte/Concord/Gastonia is the most populous metropolitan region in North Carolina; that’s one of the reasons why 3,390 dental assistants work there. The other reason is that the average income of a Charlotte resident is nearly twice the U.S. average. People who live in Charlotte have a lot of discretionary income, and they’re happy to spend it on services like dentistry that will help them become more personable. Raleigh, the state’s capital, boasts roughly half Charlotte’s population, and 2,070 dental assistants are based there. Dental assistants in Charlotte and Raleigh earn salaries that are significantly above the state average.

Even in cities like Fayetteville, where poverty levels are well above the state average, dental assistants earn salaries that are close to the national average. This may indicate that the dental services needed to maintain healthy teeth and gums are a priority for North Carolina residents.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia 3,390 $22.16 $3,840 $46,100
Raleigh 2,070 $22.77 $3,950 $47,370
Greensboro-High Point 890 $22.10 $3,830 $45,970
Durham-Chapel Hill 730 $25.08 $4,350 $52,160
Asheville 700 $22.21 $3,850 $46,200
Fayetteville 610 $20.00 $3,470 $41,610
Winston-Salem 520 $22.23 $3,850 $46,230
Wilmington 390 $21.84 $3,790 $45,430
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton 350 $21.25 $3,680 $44,200
Greenville 200 $21.19 $3,670 $44,080
Burlington 190 $21.45 $3,720 $44,620
Jacksonville 160 $19.94 $3,460 $41,480
New Bern 140 $19.83 $3,440 $41,250
Goldsboro 130 $20.32 $3,520 $42,270
Rocky Mount 120 $20.82 $3,610 $43,310
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Dental Assistant Organizations & Associations in North Carolina

North Carolina Dental Assistants Association (NCDAA)

The North Carolina Dental Assistants Association offers professional network opportunities and maintains a list of prospective scholarships for dental assistant students.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.