People everywhere enjoy better dental care, thanks to the work performed by dental assistants. If you’d like to become a dental assistant, you’ll need the right training and education in order to get started. Here are some of the dental assistant requirements you must meet if you are to be successful in this occupation.
Most dental assistants elect to complete a certificate program or obtain an Associate’s degree from a college or trade school. Some of the courses you might take during a training program include:
- Biodental science
- Chairside assisting
- Dental materials
- Dental office administration
- Oral pathology
- Preventative dentistry
- Radiology for dental assistants
These classes may consist of a combination of classroom work that is accompanied by textbook study, to hands-on practical exercises conducted in a laboratory setting. You will also be expected to expand your knowledge by performing research and completing special projects.
Some colleges require students to complete an internship prior to graduation. If required, this internship will take place in a dental clinic under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. You will be asked to perform many of the same tasks you have learned during your studies, and will be rated on your ability to complete them properly. A typical internship lasts for several weeks, and is unpaid.
Licensing requirements vary from one state to the next. Some states have no requirements concerning licensing, while others require dental assistants to pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, which is administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To be eligible for this exam, you must:
- Graduate from a dental assisting program accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
- Have current certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation
Alternatively, you may also qualify by completing between 300 and 3,000 hours of work experience over a period of between two months and three years. This experience must be verified by a licensed dentist, and you must also have current CPR certification.
When applying for the CDA exam, you will be required to answer questions concerning your background. These questions include whether or not you:
- Have ever been convicted of or pled “no contest” to a felony
- Are currently on probation, parole, home detention or any other court-ordered supervision
- Are currently required to register as a sexual or violent offender
- Have previously had a dental assistant’s license revoked or suspended
- Have previously been barred from practicing dentistry
- Have been declared mentally incompetent in a court of law
Answering “yes” to any of these questions will not necessarily bar you from taking the exam. The DANB will then ask for documentation so that they may take the matter under advisement. You will be notified of the official decision in writing.
Some states only require dental assistants to register with that state’s dental board. Other states require dental assistants to register only if they perform certain functions. For example, dental assistants in Texas must register if they plan to make x-rays, but are not required to do so if they do not. It’s important to note that certification and registration are not the same thing. Certified dental assistants could still be required to register with the state board if local laws require them to do so.
While it may take some effort to become a dental assistant, the good news is that there are no continuing education requirements to keep your certification active. A little effort now will pay off both now and in the future by preparing you for a rewarding career as a dental assistant. For help in finding the right training program, contact us.