Dental Assistant Requirements: Education, Job, and Certification

Dental assistant educational, job, and certification requirements.
Becoming a successful dental assistant entails meeting certain educational, job, and certification requirements. Image source: Allstatecareer

Dental Assistant Requirements: Education, Job, and Certification

Are you a dental or dentist assistant, or someone interested in becoming one and need information on the requirements you are expected to meet to succeed in your career?

If you are, then you will like this post. It covers three major requirements, including, educational, job, and certification requirements that you will need to fulfill to be successful in your dental assisting career.

Please, continue reading to learn about the dental assistant requirements:

Dental Assistant Requirements for Career Success

The following are requirements you may need to fulfill to succeed in your dental assistant career:

  1. Dental Assistant Educational Requirements

To start up a career as a dental assistant, you must attain the educational requirements needed to help you have knowledge on the field of dental assistance and learn skills and abilities needed to effectively work in this position.

The kind of education you need to have for the dental assistant career is given below:

  • High School Diploma: This is the basic requirement for many professions, and the fundamental first step of becoming a dental assistant. The study duration of high school diploma program is two to three years. The required subjects to pass include Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
  • Associates of Science in Dental Assisting: Associates degree in dental assistant is a two year program. It includes classroom based courses, clinical practical, and an internship. You will be expected to take general education classes, such as Psychology, English, and Math. Students in a dental assisting associates program learn how to make patient comfortable, conduct basic dental exams, and maintain patient’s dental records. Students learn through a scheme of lectures and dental laboratory skills.
  • Requirements for Associates of Science in Dental Assisting program: To enroll for this program, the applicant must attain a high school GPA of at least 2.5 or college GPA of at least 2.0, and must at least have a “C” grade or higher in Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics.
  • Associate’s Degree: Another way of becoming a dental assistant is to obtain an associate’s degree in one of the following courses accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA): Dental office administration; Oral anatomy; Dental materials; CPR and first aid; and Dental pharmacology.
  • Requirements: To obtain an associate degree, you must have completed your high school program and pass the required subjects, including Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Humanity subject like English, Writing and Communication, and Psychology.

2. Dental Assistant Job Requirements

To work as a dental assistant, the requirements you need to meet differ in various companies.

However, here are major requirements that you need to meet to qualify to work as a dental assistant in most organizations:

  • Knowledge of dental instruments and sterilization methods; dental assistants should be able to manipulate clinical and laboratory instruments and syringes with sufficient fine motor control to operate in a safe manner.
  • Excellent communication and people skills; a dental assistant should be able to effectively interact with others in spoken and written words, with the ability to demonstrate sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect when speaking with patients, peers, and staffs.
  • Attention to details; they should pay attention to details outlined by the patients and should have the ability to calm patients down as they voice questions and concerns, or exhibit stress or fear.
  • Organizational and professional skills; dental assistants ensure that tools and equipment are in place to deal with the details of dental operations, billing, and insurance; and should exhibit honest and ethical behaviors and accountability in their practice.
  • Good manual dexterity; dental assistant should have a fine motor skills. Most of the tasks associated with this career involve working with the hand.
  • Critical thinking skills; these skills are necessary in assessing other alternative solutions to problems and immediate reactions to emergencies.
  • Normal or correct visual acuity sufficient for observation of oral conditions and ability to visually differentiate the color spectrum for tissue conditions and changes in the mouth are required of dental assistants.
  • Infection control; dentist assistants take the necessary procedures and precautions in health care settings in preventing the spread of diseases.
  • Experience using computers; knowledge of computer applications, Microsoft Office suite, average keyboarding speed and some other basic and necessary computer skills are needed in the dental assisting career to perform assigned duties successfully.
  • Professional appearance; the dental assistant may be the first person a patient sees when going to a dentist office, so appearing on a clean scrub gives patients a good impression of their professionalism.
  • Must be cognizant of the expectations and concerns of the health center’s dental practice and be able to respond in an empathetic and professional manner.

See more dental assistant skills and qualities

3. Dental Assistant Certification Requirements

To practice as a dental assistant, you will most likely be required by employers or recruiters to have a certification after obtaining educational qualification.

Being certified by one of the accredited bodies in the industry gives you the seal of competence and approval to practice.

The following are accredited certification programs you can enroll in to be certified a dental or dentist assistant:

  • Certified Dental Assistant (CDA): This program is designed by the Dental Assisting Nation Board (DANB) and the exam is conducted by DANB and is in three components: General Chairside Assisting (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), and Infection Control. Requirements: To enlist in this program you must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited dental assisting program and must possess a CPR certification from a DANB accredited program; also, you must have graduated with at least a High School Diploma.
  • Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) Certification: This is awarded by the Private Certification Organization, American Medical Technologists (AMT).
  • The main aim of this certification is to demonstrate entry-level competence in primary dental assisting duties.
  • Requirements: To enroll for this program, you must graduate from an accredited dental assisting program and have three years of dental assisting work experience with recommendation from a dentist or employer.
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Certification: This program is designed by Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). This certification has a far-reaching, positive impact on the dental assistant that maintains the certificate. The COA exam is made up of a two component exam: Orthodontic Assisting (OA) and Infection Control (ICE). Requirements: Minimum of 3,500 hours of work experience as an orthodontic assistant and High School graduation or equivalent.
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA): Are you looking for the next challenge to improve and demonstrate your professional commitment? If so, acquiring this certification designed by DANB will be a nice choice to consider. The CRFDA certification program is made up of six component exams, which are Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP), Impression (IM), Temporaries (TMP), Isolate (IS), Sealant (SE), and Restorative Functions (RF). To earn this certification you must pass all the six component exams within three years. Requirements: To enroll for this program, you must have a current CDA certification and must be a graduate from a CODA accredited dental assisting program.

Dental Assistant Responsibilities

Dental assistants are also known as dental nurses and are members of the dental team. They assist dentists in providing more efficient dental treatment.

Shown below are highlights of the dental assistant’s major responsibilities:

  • Welcome customers to the dental office
  • Protect patients and employees by adhering to infection-control policies and protocols, and sterilizing instruments and equipment
  • Teaching patients the proper oral hygiene practice; for example tooth brushing and flossing, and providing nutritional counseling to help patients maintain appropriate oral health
  • Helping patients feel comfortable before, during, and after dental operation or treatment
  • Perform routine dental cleaning and assisting the dentist in the performance of more complicated surgical operations and procedures
  • The dental assistant work with patients to make them comfortable in the dental chair and to prepare them for treatments and procedures
  • Keep patient’s mouths dry by using suction hoses and other equipment during operation
  • Maintain safe and clean working environment by complying with the practice, rules, and regulations of the medical setting
  • Provide instrumentation for operation by sterilizing and delivering instruments to treatment area and positioning of the instruments for the dentist’s easy access
  • Assist patients in resolving minor difficulties, answering their questions, and giving directions to patients as authorized by the dentist.

See dental assistant job description

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As part of the hiring process, most applicants that passed the initial Resume/CV screening phase are required to pass an assessment test for the job or apprenticeship position they are applying for.

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