Which Schools Offer Dental Programs in San Diego, CA?

Learn about dental programs in the San Diego, CA, area. Get information about degrees available and admission and program requirements to make an informed decision about your education. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

There are a variety of dental programs in the San Diego area; career options range from dental assistant to dental hygienist to dentist. Regardless of level, these programs combine classroom and clinical training, and they also prepare graduates for professional licensing or certification exams. Dental assisting certificate programs may require background checks and fingerprinting; associate's degree programs in dental hygiene may require prerequisite math and science coursework; and postbaccalaureate dentistry programs may require completion of a relevant undergraduate curriculum and professional observation. Read on to learn more about your dental program options below.


Dental Certificate Programs in the San Diego Area

San Diego Mesa College

  • Program Name: Certificate of Achievement in Dental Assisting
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Tuition: $36 per unit for CA residents, $183 per unit for non-residents (as of summer 2012)
  • Prerequisites: Dental communications course (offered summers only)
  • Requirements: Background check and fingerprinting for entry into clinical practicum portion of program
  • School Type: 2-year, public; 26,000 students
  • Address: 7250 Mesa College Drive, San Diego, CA 92111
  • Phone: 619-388-2697

The dental assisting certificate program at San Diego Mesa College offers instruction in areas such as chair-side assisting, equipment operation and instrument sterilization, as well as business management in a clinical setting. In addition to the Certificate of Achievement, upon completion of the program you are granted a performance certificate indicating your capacity to utilize dental X-ray equipment in California. You can also expect to receive preparation for state and national dental assisting exams, should you want to become licensed or practice in another state upon graduation.

Palomar College

  • Program Name: Registered Dental Assisting Certificate
  • Program Length: 2 semesters
  • Tuition: $46 per unit for CA residents, $176 per unit for non-residents (as of summer 2012)
  • Prerequisites: Completion of required English course and two specified dental courses
  • Requirements: Attendance at program orientation, very good vision and hearing, CPR certification, at least 18 years of age
  • School Type: 2-year, public; 26,000 students
  • Address: 1140 West Mission Road, San Marcos, CA 92069
  • Phone: 760-744-1150 ext. 2571

Palomar College is located about 30 miles north of San Diego in San Marcos, which has a population of about 80,000. In Palomar's dental assisting certificate program, you are required to achieve at least a C in every course, and your hands-on clinical performance are relevant in your grade administration. This program offers coursework in topics such as managing a practice, radiography and preventative dentistry, as well as written composition and communications.


Dental Associate Degree Programs in the San Diego Area

San Diego Mesa College

  • Program Name: Associate in Science in Dental Assisting
  • Program Length: 2 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $36 per unit for CA residents, $183 per unit for non-residents (as of summer 2012)
  • Prerequisites: Dental communications course (offered summers only)
  • Requirements: Background check and fingerprinting for entry into clinical practicum portion of program
  • School Type: 2-year, public; 26,000 students
  • Address: 7250 Mesa College Drive, San Diego, CA 92111
  • Phone: 619-388-2697

San Diego Mesa College also offers an associate degree in dental assisting. The AS in Dental Assisting program comprises all the requirements of the certificate program, plus additional elective and general education units for a total of 60 units (the required amount to acquire an associate degree). In both programs, you are required to undergo hands-on clinical classes that include upholding the safety and ethics codes of the facility where you're practicing.

Southwestern College

  • Program Name: Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Program Length: 2 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $46 per unit for CA residents, $190 per unit for non-residents (as of summer 2012)
  • Prerequisites: Completion of specified courses in chemistry, biology, communications, English, social sciences and health; grade point average of at least 2.70 in science courses
  • Requirements: CPR certification; proof of immunizations for rubeola and rubella, hepatitis B, varicella; screening for tuberculosis; physical exam
  • School Type: 2-year, public; 19,000 students
  • Address: 880 National City Blvd., National City, CA 91950
  • Phone: 619-216-6663

While Southwestern College's main campus is located in Chula Vista, the dental hygiene program takes place in National City, which is about five miles south of San Diego along the California coast. This program begins each fall and includes instruction in infection control, dental health in a community context, periodontics and control of pain. You'll also have the opportunity to perform professional dental services (under the supervision of dentists or registered dental hygienists) for the public at the school's Dental Hygiene Clinic.


Dentistry Program Close to the San Diego Region

Loma Linda University

  • Program Name: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
  • Specialization Areas: Maxillofacial and oral surgery, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral pathology, prosthodontics
  • Program Length: 4 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $54,744 for the first year; $66,316 per year for remaining three years (costs for 2012-2013 academic year)
  • Prerequisites: One year of academic and laboratory instruction in general chemistry, general physics, English literature and composition, biology (or zoology) and organic chemistry; one semester of biochemistry
  • Requirements: 144 units of college coursework with at least a C grade, written and verbal English capacities, at least 20 hours of professional dental observation, three reference letters
  • School Type: 4-year, private not-for-profit; 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students
  • Address: 11092 Anderson Street, Loma Linda, CA 92350
  • Phone: 909-558-4222

Loma Linda University is the nearest school to the San Diego area where you can earn a DDS, the degree required to obtain licensure to practice as a dentist. The school is located in Loma Linda, which is approximately 100 miles north of San Diego. While a baccalaureate degree is not required for admission to the dental program, candidates who have one are given preference in admissions decisions. In addition to the required coursework in the subjects listed above, the dental school recommends taking courses in subjects such as mathematics, histology, microbiology and art, among others. Loma Linda's dentistry program includes ample opportunities for you to practice providing direct dental care to patients.


Dental Programs and Careers in the San Diego Area

Occupations in the dental field include positions such as dental assistant, dental hygienist and dentist, with each of these calling for different education and licensure requirements. In the San Diego area, there are programs that will allow you to earn a certificate or associate degree in dental assisting or dental hygiene, but the closest dental school offering a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), which you'd need in order to apply for licensure to practice dentistry, is about 100 miles away. In order to practice as a dentist or work as a dental hygienist, you'll need to obtain a license. Although licensure is not required for dental assistants in California, it is available from the state dental board. In general, licensure requires passing both a written and an interactive exam.

Salary and Job Outlooks for Dental Jobs

In the San Diego area, the average salary for dental assistants in 2011 was around $37,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Dental hygienists in that region made an average of approximately $84,000 per year (well above the national average of $70,000), while dentists earned an average of around $162,000 annually. The BLS predicts that the occupations of both dental assistants and dental hygienists will see a nationwide employment growth of more than 30% between 2010 and 2020, while employment of general dentists across the country is expected to increase by 21% in the same time period.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

 More Schools