The certified dental assistant job is a career where opportunities are growing. Dentists increasingly turn routine work over to CDAs and are thus able to focus on more complex tasks.
Qualifications for a CDA may vary from state to state. Some do not require a college degree, while others may require a license or registration in order to work. Specific training is available, but in some situations dentists may allow an assistant to learn on the job.
A CDA receives certification for the occupation from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). The DANB offers an examination and ensures that applicants meet other requirements for entering the field.
The exam covers three main areas:
- General Chairside (GC)
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
- Infection Control (ICE)
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Before taking the General Chairside section of the Certified Dental Assistant exam, an applicant must provide documentation showing eligibility. In addition, in becoming a certified dental assistant, there are specific pathways to taking the General Chairside (GC) exam. Applicants must first meet one of the following pathways to qualification:
- Completed a program of study approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
- Completed 3,500 hours of work as a dental assistant. That work must be completed within a two- to four-year period.
- Be a current or former DANB CDA, be a graduate of a DDS or DMD program accredited by CODA, or be a graduate of a dental degree program in another country.
The General Chairside component of the exam includes 120 multiple-choice questions. Applicants must also have completed a program in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The Radiation Health and Safety section has no prerequisites, and no documentation is required. The exam has 100 multiple-choice questions.
The Infection Control section has no prerequisites, and no documentation is required. The exam has 100 multiple-choice questions.
Test-takers can reduce their fees for becoming a CDA by taking the RHS and ICE together. The computer-based exam is available throughout the year. This allows flexibility in choosing a location, date, and time of day. There is a 60-day window of eligibility for completing the exam, and the deadline date is stated on the test admission notice.
Certificates are mailed upon passing the various exam sections. Upon completion of all three, a CDA certificate is awarded.
Applicants should note that each part of the CDA exam must be passed within a five-year period.
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