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What is an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant?

Expanded functions dental assistants play an important role in a dental practice, performing duties such as administrative work and patient care.

What is the Job Called in Your State?

Believe it or not, there are several different names for expanded dental assistants, and the title depends on where you live. For example, if you live in Oklahoma, you will work as an expanded duty dental assistant, and if your friend works in California, her title is registered dental assistant in expanded functions. Other names include qualified assistants and licensed dental assistant. In all, there are 41 different job titles for dental assistants in the United States.

Job Duties

expanded functions dental assistantExpanded functions dental assistants have a higher lever of training than a traditional dental assistant. This means they can perform the same duties as well as those that are not within the scope of traditional assistants duties. They spend a good portion of their day preparing exam and operating rooms for appointments, reviewing the patients’ medical records, making sure patients are comfortable, and taking x-rays when necessary. Depending on state regulations and the type of practice, other responsibilities could include:

Palliative Care – The upkeep of a patient’s orthodontic appliances. This includes fixing broken wires on braces, changing the bands and bonds in braces in order to move the patient to the next level of care, and reaffixing a broken band to patient’s tooth.

Removal of Orthodontic Appliances – Removing bonds, braces, and other orthodontic appliances.

Procedures – Administering anesthesia and other pain medications during a procedure.

Treatment – Fitting preliminary crowns for adjustments, sealing a child’s teeth in order to prevent decay, and much more.


Educational Requirements

In order to become an expanded functions dental assistant, you will need to enroll in an expanded functions dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. It typically takes six months to a year to complete a program offered by community colleges and technical schools. Coursework may include dental materials, dental morphology, office management, and oral biology.

Dental Radiology Certificate Program

Students who study dental radiology at the certificate level learn to take and develop x-rays. You’ll learn charting, instrument assembly, and tooth identification. The course may even include performing radiographs on mannequins. Other coursework consists of:

  • Biological effects on radiation
  • Digital radiography principles
  • Film processing techniques
  • Infection control
  • Mounting and labeling film
  • Positioning techniques
  • Regulations of radiation use


Dental assistants that use radiological equipment may need certification from the Dental Assisting National Board, depending on the state. Successfully passing the Radiation Health and Safety exam may also be required.


The other types of certification you need may depend on state regulations.

  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant

This is a newer certification offered by the Dental Assisting National Board. The exam covers coronal polish, topical anesthetic, and topical fluoride. Eligibility requirements include graduation from an accredited dental assisting or hygiene program, or dental assisting or hygiene work experience.

  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant Exam

Also administered by the Dental Assisting National Board, this exam covers six components: Anatomy, Morphology, and Physiology, Impressions, Temporaries, Isolation, Sealants, and Restorative Functions. You must pass all components within a three-year period.


According to Simply Hired, the average salary for expanded functions dental assistants is $49,000. Though it can vary depending on employer, experience, and location.


When writing your resume’s objective, make sure you mention you are an expanded functions dental assistant who offers excellent clinical and patient relations skills. The extra certification will make you stand out. Also list your computer skills, professional experience, training, and any credentials such as CPR certification.

If you would like to learn more about this career, contact us at Dental Assistant.