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Oral Health Care: A Whole New Language

Course Number: 21

Dental Assisting/Dental Assistant

Dental assisting is aiding the dentist or dental hygienist in the care of patients. The dental assistant generally works chairside during patient care, but may also work in the business office and dental laboratory. The dental assistant is not licensed, but may be certified. Most dental assistants who choose to become nationally certified take the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination. Some states provide for certification in specific expanded duties for dental assistants who have had special training. Responsibilities of the dental assistant vary depending upon the education of the individual and the laws of the state regulating dental practice.

In some states there are expanded duty (or function) dental assistants who are allowed to perform additional duties or “expanded functions.” Delegable duties and required education that define what an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) are specified on a state-by-state basis.

Many dental assistants are trained on the job, but may receive formal education through academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities or dental schools. Graduates of these programs usually receive certificates, although there are some programs that offer associate degrees. For additional information go to the website for the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) or the ADA website.