Students that have completed a dental assistant program at an accredited school are awarded either a certificate of completion or an Associate’s degree in dental assistant training. After completing their one or two years of formal instruction and clinical training, students are eligible to sit for the state licensure to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). Majority of the dental assistants opt to become recognized by the Dental Assisting National Board by taking the CDA because this is exam is mandated in more than 30 states. Current dental assistants can also sit for licensure as long as they have 2 years of full time or 4 years of part-time work experience.
Additionally, dental assistants who want to perform radiology procedures must finish the required additional training sessions related to radiological functions. In most cases, completion of the Radiation Health and Safety exam administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is necessary in several states. A current cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification is also required.
To maintain licensure or certification, dental assistants are required by many states to earn continuing education units. Continuing education (CDE) is also important for dental assistants who want to have more advancement opportunities. The American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) provides continuing education courses that may be completed online. After completing and passing an examination, dental assistants will be able to earn their continuing education units that are required in most states.
In some states, dental assistants must complete a minimum of twelve (12) hours of continuing education per year from an approved provider in order to renew their certification. Dental assistants are able to complete their continuing education credits by taking the mandatory CPR certification, attending in-person seminars, enrolling in online schools, exhibits or through home study programs. Credits may also be obtained by enrolling in college courses, taking DANB exams, participating in community activities, and reading approved dental articles and journals. However, credits are granted only if the continuing education course is directly related to dentistry or dental assisting. The continuing education course must be 45 minutes in length to meet the criteria for one CDE credit.
Continuing education may either be technical, scientific or related to clinical care. Clinical courses and exhibits can be on a wide variety of topics ranging from infection control, radiology, and even non-human dentistry such as that of felines and canines. Additionally, credits may also be earned by reviewing dental exhibits or attending meetings headed by dental organizations or groups.
Non-clinical courses that are related to dentistry can also fulfill the continuing education requirements. These courses may be done through lectures, home-study programs (done via the web, a workbook or audio tape), and seminars. Some of the acceptable courses include dental practice management, HIPAA, billings, insurance claims, American Sign Language, nutrition, dental hygeine and computer software courses.
Dental assistants can also earn credits by reviewing reference materials such as textbooks or articles. Furthermore, credits can also be earned by doing volunteer work, international or local mission work, and providing dental health education to students or groups.