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Dental Assistant Certification - What's Required To Obtain A License

Aug 5, 2008
There are over 30 states in the United States of America that mandate certification of dental assistants. Others states may require that candidates undergo state approved dental assistant programs in order to register as dental assistants. Certification serves as proof of the professional competence and specialized education of the incumbent. It is evidence that the person has received theoretical and practical instructions that have endowed him/her with specialized knowledge and skills with respect to the work he/she is expected to perform. Dental assistant certification is an integral part of searching for employment as a dental assistant.

Certification of dental assistants is done by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) which is recognized across the United States. To be eligible to apply for the dental assistant certification examinations a prospective examinee needs to complete a course from an accredited institution offering a dental assisting program. At last count there were 269 such accredited institutions across the country. Accreditation of these institutions is granted by the Commission on Dental Accreditation which is a part of the ADA or the American Dental Association.

The tenure of such programs is usually one year or less and the curriculum includes relevant theoretical instructions through attending classroom lectures and laboratory course work along with pre-clinical instructions in dental assisting skills. Practical hands on experience is gained in dental clinics, dental offices and dental schools via practical work that is interspersed during the course. Successful completion of the program includes passing the examination which results in the award of a certificate or diploma. There are also two year programs offered by community and junior colleges that lead to a relevant associate degree.

For entry to such programs the minimum academic level required is a high school diploma or equivalent. Specific programs may require the applicant to have studied science (chemistry and biology) and/or computers in high school to be eligible for admission. Alternatively, he/she needs to have had relevant work experience as a dental assistant either full time for two years or part time for four years. Current certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is also a must. After obtaining initial certification, the individual has to be re-certified annually by earning continuing educational credits. Apart from the DANB certification, there are various organizations, predominantly at state level, that offer registration as a dental assistant through their individual dental assistant programs.

There are different online administrative dental assistant certification programs offered only through accredited colleges and universities. An Administrative Dental Assistant certificate is awarded to the student after successful completion of the course. The course is geared towards the business management aspects of dental practice. The instructional area of the program covers anatomy, dental terminology, account receivable and reimbursement management, medical records management, patient billing, patient scheduling, procedural and diagnostic coding etc. to prepare an individual for an office career in a dental office. This course is spread over 240 hours.
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