What Is a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)?

Certified dental assistants are trained and credentialed professionals who help dentists treat patients. For more information about job responsibilities and training requirements in this field, keep reading. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Duties and Responsibilities

As a certified dental assistant (CDA), your main occupational responsibilities involve performing routine laboratory tasks in a dentist office. This may include cleaning and organizing dental equipment, preparing patients for their dental treatments, and aiding the dentist during procedures that require an extra set of hands. You may also be responsible for collecting patients' medical and dental records and updating them to include ongoing dental treatment information.

Working with X-ray imaging used to diagnose specific oral pathologies may also fall under your typical tasks list. You will also teach patients how to maintain proper oral hygiene between dental visits and perform postoperative care in the event of oral surgery.

Important Facts About Certified Dental Assistants

Similar Occupations Dental hygienist, medical assistant, pharmacy technician, surgical technologist
Key Skills Attention to detail; organizational, interpersonal, and listening skills
Work Environment Typical work schedules are full time
Licensure Required by some states for assistants who perform coronal polishing

Educational Requirements

In some states, you can become a CDA with only a high school diploma and an appropriate amount of on-the-job training. In other states, you'll need to complete either a certificate or an associate's program in dental assisting. These programs cover the essential knowledge of the dental sciences, including the clinical procedures necessary to become a dental assistant. You will also learn about infection control techniques, radiologic principles, and first aid practices.

Certification Information

The CDA credential is awarded by the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board). In some states, you are required to earn this certification in order to work as a dental assistant. To qualify for the CDA examination, you must have either graduated from a dental assistant educational program or worked as a full-time dental assistant for at least two years. If working only part-time, you must have received at least four years of experience. You must also have a valid cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification in order to take the exam.

The DANB's CDA examination is actually made up of three separate exams that test your knowledge of radiation health and safety, infection control and general chairside assisting. The three tests total up to 320 multiple-choice questions and last for a duration of four hours. The three tests can be taken at the same time or separately as long as they are all completed within a five-year time period. Once you've received your CDA designation, you must renew your certification every year, which requires taking at least 12 credits of continuing dental education.

Employment and Salary Info

As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported that there were 314,330 people employed as dental assistants. The BLS also reported that dental assistants earned an average of $36,260 per year as of May 2014. A healthy occupational growth of 25% was predicted for dental assistants from 2012-2022.

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