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Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Certification Requirements

Research what's needed to be eligible to get credentialed as a certified dental assistant. See training requirements such as courses, some of the standards for admission and wage information.

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Essential Information

Dental assistants provide both clinical and clerical support in licensed dentists' offices. Aspiring dental assistants learn the basics of oral health and patient communication through an associate's degree program in dental assisting. Such a program can be found at a 2-year community college or vocational school. These programs are designed to provide students (namely, high school raduates) with a strong understanding of dental office procedures and dental assistant duties.

While enrolled in an associate's degree program in dental assisting, students learn how to recognize, identify and clean basic dental equipment. They learn the basics of dental radiology and oral health maintenance, and they're often required to complete a supervised, practical course in dental assisting techniques and chairside assistance before graduation. Several states in the U.S. require that dental assistants hold the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA®) certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), which offers three eligibility pathways.

Educational Prerequisites

Students who aspire to become certified dental assistants will need a high school diploma or a GED. Those who earned high marks in mathematics, social science and English communication will likely do well in these programs.

Program Coursework

Most courses found within an educational program in dental assisting are practical in nature, and they provide students with the exact skill sets they will need to gain certification in the field. Some such courses include:

  • Chairside assisting
  • Dental materials
  • Dental radiology
  • Oral anatomy
  • Dental profession basics
  • Dental language
  • Office procedures
  • Clinical chairside practicum
  • First-Aid and CPR
  • Dental lab procedures

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were more than 297,000 dental assistants employed across the country (www.bls.gov). Most dental assistants worked in the offices of dentists, and they made a median annual wage of $34,500 in 2012. New Hampshire was the top-paying state for dental assistants in the U.S. in 2012, followed by Minnesota, Alaska, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts, says the BLS.

Certification Information

The majority of states in the U.S. require dental assistants to gain licensure by completing an accredited educational training program and/or passing a series of examinations. Many states recognize the Certified Dental Assistant certification, offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), as meeting these requirements. To gain certification from the DANB (www.danb.org), students can select one of three eligibility pathways.

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