As with other professions, dental assistants use certification as a signal to customers and employers alike that the assistant is qualified to perform the duties of the job. Since dentistry involves the health of patients, knowing that their welfare lies in good hands is a top priority. As such, certification of dental assistants is recognized in over 30 states and is required in many of them.
For dental assistants, the certification exam, which tests their knowledge of the job, is administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Those who pass the test become Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs). Candidates may qualify to take the CDA exam by graduating from a dental assisting program accredited by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation. Dental assistants who didn’t gain a formal dental education or who graduated from a program not accredited by the ADA can be eligible to take the exam by having either two years of full-time or four years of part-time experience as a dental assistant. All applicants must also be certified to perform CPR before taking the exam.
Some states recognize passage of components of the CDA exam, such as the Radiation Health and Safety examination or the Infection Control examination, so that dental assistants can be certified for certain specialities.
After successful certification, annual recertification may be required, meaning that dental assistants must continue to prove that their vocational knowledge is up to date by earning continuing education credits.
Note that many states have license requirements in addition to certification. Check your state’s regulations to ensure compliance.