Certification and Advancement

National certification is possible for dental assistant jobs and serves as a means for workers to prove their knowledge and show that they are prepared to assist safe delivery of dental care.

  • Most dental assistants choose to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
  • To be eligible to take this exam, the dental assistant must complete a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), have worked full-time as a dental assistant for at least two years, or have worked part-time for at least four years.
  • Additionally, someone wishing to sit for this exam must be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

You will have to take responsibility for learning what is required to work or become certified as a dental assistant in your state, as regulations differ. For example, more than 37 states recognize or require passage of the CDA to fulfill part of the qualifications they deem necessary to become a dental assistant. Certain states require that dental assistants who perform radiological procedures complete training in addition to other material they must learn. Some desire their dental assistants to take a state-approved radiology course, while 12 other states have no such standards. Thirty states and the District of Columbia consider completion of the Radiation Health and Safety exam offered by DANB, or the CDA, a sufficient demonstration of knowledge to work in the field.

A few advancement possibilities are available when a dental assistant pursues further education. Some move on to become office managers, product sales representatives for dental companies, or even insurance claims processors. Those who prefer to maintain more direct contact with patients might think about returning to school to become a dental hygienist. Oftentimes, a job as a dental assistant is the first of many steps a person can take toward advancing in a very fulfilling and productive career.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014

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