How to Get Your Dental Assistant Certificate

Now that you understand how important and beneficial it is to have your dental assistant certification, your next question is probably on how to get your dental assistant certificate. As discussed before in the article about the importance of dental assistant certification, there are many dental assistant certificates that you can have but the one certificate that matters is the one given by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Why get a certification from the DANB?

States have been regulating the profession in an effort to maintain the high quality of service offered to patients. However, states have varying rules and regulations when it comes to dental assistants. Some states allow dental assistants to perform certain clinical tasks without being licensed or registered while some states are very strict when it comes to this. What the requirements are for you to practice would completely depend on where you plan to practice being a dental assistant.

One more tricky thing about certification is that what applies and works in one state may not be accepted by another. For example, if you used to practice in Washington and wish to move to New York, then you might have to check if your existing certification is acceptable by New York standards or if you would have to take another exam to be able to practice in New York.

This is where getting a dental assistant certification from DANB comes in. DANB certification is recognized by over 30 states so if you are certified by DANB, it is safe to assume that you are competent and possess the necessary skills and knowledge to work as one. Plus, being recognized by a credible, non-profit organization will definitely lend some recognition as well to your practice. Isn’t this the basic thing about getting certified? By getting certified, you are being recognized by a trusted and reputable third party thereby giving you recognition as well.

The Certified Dental Assistant Exam

You can earn your DANB certification in two ways – by becoming a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) or a Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA). Since we are focusing more on becoming a Certified Dental Assistant, this article will discuss the three components of the exam as well as eligibility and exam requirements.

The Certified Dental Assistant Exam given by the DANB is divided into three components which are: General Chairside (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), and Infection Control (ICE).

General Chairside (GC)

The General Chairside exam is basically made up of 120 multiple choice questions that you have to answer in basically an hour. The exam cover topics like clinical data collection and recording, chairside procedures, lab materials, equipment and procedures, preparation, manipulation and application of chairside dental materials as well as basic oral health knowledge and office management procedures.  You will have to pay $200 as examination fee to take this exam.

Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)

Radiation Health and Safety is one important aspect of the exam and in fact, certification in RHS is mandatory in a lot of states. The RHS exam is composed of 100 multiple-choice questions that will take you 1 hour and 15 minutes to finish. The exam will cover topics in the radiology processes, radiation safety on the patient and operator’s part. To take this test, you have to pay $190 as your exam which includes a non-refundable application fee of $50.

Infection Control (ICE)

The Infection Control exam is another 100 multiple-choice exam that will take you another 1 hour and 15 minutes. The exam will cover topics on patient and dental health care education, preventing cross-contamination and transmission, maintain aseptic conditions, proper sterilizing procedures and on occupational safety. To take this test, you have to pay $175 which includes a non-refundable application fee of $50.

You can choose to take all three tests at the same time of the Certified Dental Assistant exam. You will have four hours to answer the 320 multiple-choice questions and pay a total fee of $375. In case you fail in some components of the exam, you can re-take these but you will only be given your certificate once you successfully pass all three components and you have to do this within a five-year period. You will be given a competency certificate if you pass your RHS or ICE test.

Don’t think that these exams are a walk in the park because they are not. Thousands of dental assistant students fail every year because they believe that since they came from a dental assistant school or undergone training, they already know everything there is to know. It would be best if you research and visit the DANB site for review materials, results and exam blueprints to give you a better idea on what to expect about the exam. Save yourself the time and money by reviewing properly and studying a lot before the exams take place.


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