Dental Assistants are often essential to your average dental office. They assist with many tasks, from record keeping to patient care. There are many paths to becoming a Dental Assistant, but Dental Assistant Certification is the most common. Many states do not issue formal education for basic dental assistant duties, such as preparing patients and dental instruments. In over 30 states, however, advanced responsibilities, like radiology procedures, require having a Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) Certification and passing a state board exam in Radiation Technology. Below are three steps to becoming a certified dental assistant:
Step 1 – Receive Training Before Taking the CDA Exam
Before taking the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam for certification, you must first receive dental assistant training through an accredited program or several hours of hands-on experience. Acceptance to a dental assistant training school requires that you first obtain a high school diploma or GED before admittance. After receiving your high school diploma or GED, you are prepared to apply to a dental assistant training school accredited by the Commission of Dental Assisting. Most dental assistant training programs take one year to complete. However, if you’ve already obtained 3500 hours of recent dental assisting experience, you may be allowed to skip the education requirement and still take the CDA Exam for certification. Individual state requirements are specified on the DANB website.
Step 2 – Obtain CPR Certification
It is required that CDA candidates be Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Certified by attending a CPR training class. This certification must be current. The training class must be offered through a provider approved by the DANB and a hands-on exam should be taken to complete the course. Some training providers that qualify are the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. A list of acceptable programs is available in the Exams and Certifications section of the DANB website. CDA candidates must be CPR certified before their CDA examination date.
Step 3 – Schedule CDA Test Dates
Three sections of the CDA Exam must be completed in order to become a Certified Dental Assistant. The exam consists of 320 multiple-choice questions total. The three components of the exam are: Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Infection Control (ICE), and General Chairside (GC). These portions test your knowledge of sanitation methods, safe equipment handling, and X-ray equipment. You can complete the first two components of the exam at any time. The General Chairside Assisting section, however, requires the completion of dental assistant training or 3500 hours of recent dental experience. Applications for the CDA Exam can be printed from the DANB Website. After submission, you will be directed to a local test center to take the exams by computer. All three parts of the exam must be completed within a five-year period. Your certification will be sent to you by mail after passing the exam.
Many accredited dental assistant training programs involve laboratory, as well as supervised practical experience. Students are taught about dental instruments, as well as the teeth, gums, and jaws. The employment of dental assistants is projected to increase faster than the average for all occupations. A growth of 25 percent is anticipated from 2012 to 2022. The median annual wage for dental assisting was $34, 500 in May 2012 and most dental assistants work full time.