How to Achieve Dental Assistant Certification

Dental assistant certification is a voluntary career option you can pursue to enhance your employability and career success. Certification is a credential earned by many professionals in the field of healthcare that can help demonstrate career expertise.

To get your certification, follow these three steps:

1) Graduate from an accredited dental assistant training program. Though it is possible to become a dental assistant, and even become certified, without attending an accredited training program, this is not recommended. DAs who are not formally trained typically receive lower salaries, are not hired as quickly, and have reduced career options compared to those who are formally trained. Additionally, certification requires two years of job experience for those who did not graduate from an accredited program. Thus, attending a formal training program to gain the skills and background you need to enter this field is important.

Accredited dental assistant schools can be found on any website that compares schools and training programs. It is recommended that you get information on at least three schools, to ensure you are considering all of your options.

2) Get CPR certification. This requirement can be achieved quickly by taking a CPR/First Aid course, which can be completed in one session, usually lasting 2 to 5 hours. The Red Cross website or the American Heart Association website can help you find classes in your area. Classes are inexpensive, frequent, and fast.

3) Pass the certification exam through DANB. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential. This requires passing an exam consisting of around 320 questions, which takes about 4 hours. Questions are based on general chairside skills, radiation safety, and infection control. Visiting the DANB website can help you find a testing location near you. You may need to set an appointment in advance.

Once you have passed the examination and received your certification in the mail, you are officially certified. Feel free to add it to your resume and bring it up in job interviews.

Maintaining Your Certification

Once you are certified, you must maintain your certification each year by participating in ongoing education. This can consist of classroom courses, online courses, seminars, or a variety of other mediums that count toward DANB education requirements. Each hour of education is eligible for a credit toward recertification, with a minimum of 12 credits required each year.

The DANB website provides details on recertification requirements and credit eligibility.

Benefits of Certification

Achieving certification provides numerous educational and career benefits, making it nearly meaningless to join this field without becoming certified.

Some of these benefits are:

  • A higher salary
  • Better job prospects
  • Greater capacity for job responsibility
  • More trust from employers
  • More career skills in general
  • Greater access to career connections

Once you have started on your path to becoming a Certified Dental Assistant, you will probably find the effort required is far outweighed by the career experience and benefits of being certified. Good luck on your future career path!

More information on dental assistant certification and dental assistant schools can be found at, a career and education resource for dental assistants.

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