How to Become a Dental Assistant in California

The job of a dental assistant may not be as the one of a dentist, but it has its perks and responsibilities.

In some clinics dental assistants are the face of the practice.

They have to be kind and welcoming and to treat every patient with respect, as well as keep clients’ personal information safe.

An assistant in a dental office have to be motivated and be able to move with ease in a fast-paced environment.

Dental Assistants in California in Numbers

The state of California is the largest employer of dental assistants in the USA.

According to the Dental Board of California there were 45,510 actively practicing dental assistants in the state in 2013.

It is expected this number to grow by the year 2022 reaching 52,200 individuals.

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This will result in about 1,640 job openings in the state of California every year.

There are regulations regarding dental assistants in the state according to the Dental Board of California.

Assistants in dental offices are divided into four different professional categories.

They are the following:

  • RDA (Registered Dental Assistants)
  • Unlicensed dental assistants
  • Holders of a dental sedation assistant permit
  • Holders of a orthodontic assistant permit.

How to Become a Dental Assistant in California?

Each one of the categories listed above has different requirements.

These requirements are easily achievable by dental assistants who have successfully passed a dental assisting program that has been accredited by the CODA (Commission on Dental Assisting) () .

These programs are omnipresent in the state of California.

Currently, there are 24 such programs in the state.

Each program includes some coursework, as well as practice in both administrative and clinical aspects, and can be finished in a year.

If you are an unlicensed dental assistant you can perform some basic dental duties, but under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist.

You also need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must have completed a course in BLS (Basic Life Support), that has been approved by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
  • Course in infection control approved by the Board
  • Course in the California Dental Practice Act approved by the Board
  • BLS (Basic Life Support) certification

Here are all Board-approved programs – https://www.dbc.ca.gov/applicants/rda/courses.shtml

To be an RDA (Registered Dental Assistant) in the state of California, one has to meet the requirements listed below:

  • Have 15 months of experience as a dental assistant or graduate from a RDA Board-approved program
  • Course in infection control approved by the Board
  • Course in the California Dental Practice Act approved by the Board
  • You must have completed a course in BLS, that has been approved by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
  • Complete a written exam in laws and ethics
  • Complete a Board-approved program in coronal polishing and radiation safety

When all of these criteria are met candidates can fill in an application for an RDA license.

To perform some expanded duties dental assistants must become licensed as a RDAEF (Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions).

To receive a certification in RDAEF students must meet the following requirements:

  • Pass a clinical, practical and written Board-approved exam
  • Complete a Board-approved pit and fissure sealants course
  • Complete a Board-approved course in extended functions

When all of the above criteria are met individuals must apply for the RDAEF through the Dental Board of California.

To become a Dental Sedation Assistant permit holders, dental assistants have to be a RDAEFs or RDAs and meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a Board-approved dental sedation assistant course
  • Pass the written state exam in dental sedation duties
  • You must have completed a course in BLS, that has been approved by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross
  • Complete a Board-approved California Dental Practice Act course
  • Complete a Board-approved infection control course
  • Have 12 months of practice as a dental assistant

When all of the above criteria are met individuals must apply for a Dental Sedation Assistant permit.

Dental assistants in the state of California have to obtain a permit in order to become orthodontic assistants.

To be eligible for such permit individuals have to meet the following requirements:

  • Must be an RDA/RDAEF
  • Complete a Board-approved California Dental Practice Act course
  • You must have completed a course in BLS, that has been approve by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross
  • Complete a Board-approved infection control course
  • Have 12 months of experience as dental assistant
  • Complete a Board-approved orthodontic assistant course
  • Pass an orthodontic written exam

When all of the above criteria are met individuals must apply for an Orthodontic Assistant permit.

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National Options for Certification in Dental Assisting

After a successful completion of a dental assisting program accredited by the CODA students can obtain a national certification through the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board).

These certifications are a huge plus to the resume of candidates in the field of dental assisting.

There are a few options for certification offered by the DANB:

  • COA (Certified Orthodontic Assistant)
  • CPFDA (Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant)
  • CDA (Certified Dental Assistant)
  • CRFDA (Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant)

The basic certification that almost all students pursue is the CDA.

It can be achieved after a successful completion of three component exams.

To be eligible for the CDA exams individuals must graduate from a dental assisting program accredited by the CODA or have 3,500 hours of dental assisting experience.

Sadly, all DANB credentials must be renewed annually.

All of them needs at least 30 credits in the listed below areas:

  • At least 12 credits in clinical practice
  • At least 3 credits in dental office management
  • At least 3 credits in voluntary service/scholarly activity
  • At least 12 credits in DANB/other exams in the dental field

Job Opportunities for Dental Assistants in the State of California

According to the statistics offered by the State of California Employment Development Department for the year 2014 the largest employers of dental assistants were physician offices, numbering 63,218 employers.

They are followed by dental offices with 27,065 employers in the state.

Lastly, there are the outpatient care centers with numbers reaching 7,547 employers.

Unemployed assistant can look for job opportunities in larger cities and areas, where more jobs are available every month, such as the Bay Area, San Francisco, San Diego, North Coast, Monterey and more.

Don’ts for a Dental Assistant in California

  • Any kind of procedure regarding permanent restorations, such as placement and removal
  • Diagnose treatment
  • Plan treatment
  • Cutting and surgical procedures on hard tissue
  • Cutting and surgical procedures on soft tissue
  • Prescribe medication
  • Prophylaxis procedures and more.

How Much Does a Dental Assistant in California Earn?

Annual base salary by area:

LocationAvg. Annual Salary
Anaheim,CA$40,743
Antioch,CA$41,733
Apple Valley,CA$38,677
Bakersfield,CA$39,157
Berkeley,CA$43,204
Burbank,CA$41,235
Carlsbad,CA$38,981
Carson,CA$40,652
Chico,CA$37,211
Chula Vista,CA$39,200
Coachella,CA$38,708
Concord,CA$40,966
Corona,CA$38,954
Costa Mesa,CA$40,652
Daly City,CA$45,939
Downey,CA$40,843
El Cajon,CA$39,083
El Monte,CA$41,191
Elk Grove,CA$39,646
Escondido,CA$38,981
Fairfield,CA$40,936
Fontana,CA$39,012
Fremont,CA$44,393
Fresno,CA$36,532
Fullerton,CA$40,743
Garden Grove,CA$40,743
Glendale,CA$41,235
Hayward,CA$43,131
Huntington Beach,CA$40,652
Inglewood,CA$41,235
Irvine,CA$40,652
Lancaster,CA$41,016
Lompoc,CA$38,027
Long Beach,CA$40,652
Los Angeles,CA$41,235
Modesto,CA$38,720
Monterey,CA$40,482
Moreno Valley,CA$38,983
Murrieta,CA$39,766
Newhall,CA$40,718
Norwalk,CA$40,690
Oakland,CA$43,204
Oceanside,CA$39,287
Ontario,CA$38,954
Orange,CA$40,652
Oxnard,CA$39,092
Palmdale,CA$40,961
Pasadena,CA$41,235
Petaluma,CA$41,017
Pomona,CA$40,656
Rancho Cucamonga,CA$38,818
Rialto,CA$38,841
Richmond,CA$43,369
Riverside,CA$39,012
Roseville,CA$39,602
Sacramento,CA$39,704
Salinas,CA$40,395
San Bernardino,CA$38,841
San Diego,CA$39,200
San Francisco,CA$45,939
San Jose,CA$44,480
Santa Ana,CA$40,688
Santa Barbara,CA$39,403
Santa Clara,CA$44,480
Santa Clarita,CA$40,650
Santa Cruz,CA$40,579
Santa Maria,CA$38,694
Santa Rosa,CA$39,813
Simi Valley,CA$39,982
Stockton,CA$39,085
Sunnyvale,CA$44,480
Temecula,CA$39,220
Thousand Oaks,CA$39,681
Torrance,CA$40,652
Vallejo,CA$41,053
Ventura,CA$39,092
Victorville,CA$38,693
Visalia,CA$36,313
West Covina,CA$40,656

USA Dental Assisting by State


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