Learn About Dental Assistant Certification

A dental assistant is known as a dentist’s second pair of hands. This is because they help provide quality oral healthcare by assisting during treatment and procedures.

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Job Duties

Dental assistants work under a dentist’s supervision and perform a wide array of clinical and administrative duties based on employer, training, and state guidelines.

Clinical – Assistants are often responsible for removing sutures, taking and processing x-rays, preparing compounds used for making impressions, sterilizing dental equipment, and keeping a patient’s mouth dry by using a suction device.

Administrative – During a lull in treating patients or if the dentist is out of the office, dental assistants often handle administrative duties. They include billing patients, processing insurance claims, ordering dental supplies, and answering the telephone.

dental assistant certificationIs Certification Required to Perform Some of these Duties?

Yes, in some states. The Certified Dental Assistant certification is recognized or required in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia. The exam is administered by the Dental Assisting National Board, and there are certain eligibility requirements you must meet before applying to take the examination. You must have current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and:

  • Have graduated from an accredited dental program, or
  • Have a high school diploma or GED, and have worked as a dental assistant for two years on a full-time basis or four years part-time.

Background Information

Next you must complete the exam application which has background information questions that all candidates must answer. The questions include:

  • In the last five years, have you been convicted of a felony or plead no contest to a felony charge?
  • Have you ever been declared mentally incompetent in a court of law?
  • Are you currently serving a home detention sentence or are you on parole or probation?
  • Have you ever lost authorization to practice dental assisting?

If you answer “yes” to any of these or the other background questions on the application, you must attach a signed and dated statement that describes the circumstances for each occurrence.


The Exam

It takes about four hours to take the exam and there are no breaks. If you need to use the restroom, you can do so, but the clock will continue to run in your absence. The exam consists of three main sections:

  • General Chairside Test – 120 questions
  • Infection Control Test – 100 questions
  • Radiation Health and Safety – 100 questions

Questions will be similar to the following:

1. A permanent dentition consists of how many teeth?

2. Which proximal surface of a tooth is closest toward the midline of the body?

3. A permanent dentition consists of how many premolars?

4. Which teeth are sometimes called eye teeth?

5. Using the Universal System of tooth designation, what tooth is #12?

6. When a mouth is divided into fourths, the parts are referred to as?

7. Using the International Standards Organization System of tooth recording, which tooth is #25?

8. Which Hepatitis virus should all healthcare personnel be immunized against?

9. A patient has symptoms of an oral yeast infection. What condition could have caused this infection?

10. A patient experiences an infection where symptoms quickly appear and are severe in nature. What type of infection is this?

11. A microorganism that is capable of causing diseases is known as?

12. What type of device does digital radiography use to record images taken of a patient’s teeth?

13. What type of film allows the entire dentition to be viewed on one film?

15. What step helps prevent a large radiolucent area near the palate as seen on a panoramic x-ray?

16. Why does digital radiography require less radiation than traditional x-rays?

17. Which of the following may be contraindicated in a patient that has severe hypertension?

  • Fluoride
  • Levonordefrin
  • Lidocaine
  • Nitrous oxide

Other Certifications

If you would like to expand your career opportunities, you can take one of these certification exams:

  • Orthodontic Dental Assistance
  • Preventive Functions Dental Assistant
  • Restorative Functions Dental Assistant

Certification Benefits

There are several benefits to becoming a certified dental assistant. They include:

  • Earning a higher salary than non-certified assistants
  • Being hired over someone who is not certified
  • Being better prepared to answer questions during a dental assistant job interview

If you have any questions about obtaining dental assistant certification, contact us for more information.