“One step at a time”, is the golden formula for all good things in life.
And we can apply the same in every aspect of it, including our choice of a profession!
In this case, registering and licensing as a Dental Assistant requires some effort for sure.
And you have to be willing to work and put some effort into your studies.
In general, the profession of a Dental Assistant in the United States is not similar in terms of requirements.
Depending on a state that offers the Dental Practice Act, the duties, requirements, and responsibilities of dental assistants, therefore, may vary significantly.
The American Association of Dental Assistants (AADA) has for quite a time been focused on establishing a standardized credentialing as well as education for Dental Assistants in the U.S.
The Association has done that as a way of ensuring the competency of these dental professionals and to keep safe the welfare of the public.
But unfortunately, still, it has not brought much difference for the better.
Article Table of Contents
- 1 State Regulation of Dental Assistants
- 2 Dental Assistant Job Requirements and Titles
- 3 More Information on Dental Assistant State Requirements for State Licensure and Registration
State Regulation of Dental Assistants
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) in total recognizes 70 dental assisting functions that are allowable for dental assistants to perform under a dentist’s supervision.
Although many of these clinical and administrative duties are seen as standard responsibilities across the board, a number of them are considered as belonging to the expanded functions Dental Assistant by many states.
So, it is up to the state’s Board of Dental Examiners, through their Dental Practice Act, to outline which of these responsibilities require additional registration, training, or certification.
And to recognize which of the responsibilities are prohibited as well.
Search Dental Assistant Programs
After you’re done with state procedures for DA, you can start thinking about the program choice.
You can choose between an administrative or clinical dental assistant.
All you need is the training to make it happen.
However, you may learn more about flexible training options and the cost of programs in your area.
While the majority of states require dental assistants to be certified, licensed, or registered, many still do not have these qualifications at all.
Those that do require some type of regulation for dental assistants, may register or get the license in just one type of dental assistant.
Or else, they may have various levels of registration, depending on the responsibilities and duties dental assistants in the state are authorized to perform.
The bottom line is that it is up to a state’s Board of Dental Examiners to determine which expanded duty functions dental assistants in the state can perform and the due training, registration, and/or certification that is required to do so.
Here are a few of the possible job duties of dental assistants that may be regulated in the state in which they work:
- Applying pit and fissure sealants
- Applying topical anesthetics and anti-inflammatory agents
- Applying topical fluoride
- Making impressions and restorations
- Monitoring nitrous oxide or oxygen analgesia
- Preparing materials to make impressions
- Processing dental x-ray films
- Removing excess filling cement
- Removing periodontal dressings
- Removing sutures
State Requirements Specific to General and Expanded Functions
There are currently 15 states that require some form of training for dental assistants.
While just a few states, such as Minnesota, California, and Michigan, have set specific educational standards and examinations in order to become a registered dental assistant there.
Many states still have no training, credentialing, or continued education standards for dental assistants whatsoever.
Entry-Level Requirements for Dental Assistants
The majority of states allow entry-level training for dental assistants, with many states using specific titles for these dental assistants.
In California, for instance, the title is “unlicensed dental assistant,” while Iowa refers to them as “dental assistant trainees.”
For states that recognize entry-level dental assistants, there are typically probationary time periods that must be completed before these entry-level dental professionals can apply for a license/registration or begin performing expanded functions.
Still, other states, such as North Carolina, have no requirements, thereby allowing dental assistants to perform basic supportive dental procedures without completing specific training requirements in the first place.
The AADA, however, emphasizes the importance for all dental professionals to understand righteously the guidelines and regulations related to:
- Infection control procedures
- Health history information
- Intraoral functions
While the basic requirements for beginning dental assistants often include:
- Washington: An AIDS course
- Vermont: Emergency procedures training within 180 days of being hired
- South Dakota: High school diploma
- Mississippi: CPR certification within 180 days
- Minnesota: CPR certification
- California: The completion of a state course after four months of training
Dental Assistant Job Requirements and Titles
Many states recognize dental assistants of various levels, this way, allowing dental assistants to achieve the required training to move to the next level.
For example, in Texas, a dental assistant, who is allowed to perform basic supportive dental procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist, need not possess any specific education or training requirements.
However, to become a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) in Texas, dental assistants must complete a course in basic life support and one of the following:
- A mandatory course of training approved by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) that includes procedures for infection control, positioning exposing dental x-rays, or jurisprudence
- Earn DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential and complete the Texas jurisprudence examination
Texas also outlines specific requirements for dental assistants who want to perform specific, expanded function procedures.
For example, to receive a pit and fissure sealant certification in Texas, dental assistants must:
- have at least two years of experience as a dental assistant;
- complete a course in basic life support;
- complete at least 8 hours of Board-approved clinical and didactic education in pit and fissure sealants;
- and register with the TSBDE.
Another example is New York State, which recognizes three dental assistant levels:
- Unlicensed dental assistant: No education or training requirements
- Dental assistant with a limited permit: Dental assistants may apply for a one-year permit before taking and passing the examinations required to become a licensed and certified dental assistant.
- These dental assistants must have completed a Board-approved program in dental assisting or an alternate course of study in dental assisting that includes at least 1,000 hours of relevant work experience.
- New York State Licensed Certified Dental Assistant: A dental assistant in New York State must be licensed to perform supportive services under the direction of a licensed dentist.
The above educational requirements are a must, and the dental assistant must successfully complete one of two examination pathways:
- Pathway 1: All three components of the DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam
- Pathway 2: Pass the DANB RHS and ICE component examinations, as well as the New York Professional Dental Assisting (NYPDA) exam
Some states, such as New York State and Alaska, have no radiography requirements for dental assistants.
While others, such as Florida, have specific requirements for dental assistants who operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures.
In Florida, dental assistants who perform radiographic functions must be graduates of Florida Board of Dentistry-approved dental assisting programs or be state-certified as dental radiographers through the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).
To hold certification from the FDOH, dental assistants must have completed at least three months of on-the-job training under the direct supervision of a Florida licensed dentist and must have completed a Florida Board-approved radiology course.
Dental assistants in Washington D.C., on the other hand, can be allowed to perform radiography if they have taken and passed the DANB’s Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam or CDA exam.
Or, if they have successfully completed a dental radiography training program approved by the D.C. Board of Dentistry.
More Information on Dental Assistant State Requirements for State Licensure and Registration
More information on dental assistant state requirements may be obtained through:
- The DALE Foundation, a recognized provider of the American Dental Association, which maintains information on state requirements that have been compiled by the DANB and state dental boards.
- The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) also maintains current state information on its website and provides links to the appropriate state Boards of Dental Examiners.