The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


The Steps to Become a Certified Dental Assistant


Are you looking for a career that pays higher than minimum wage and helps you care for others? You might want to become a dental assistant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field of dental assisting will grow 7% in the next eight years, adding over 20,000 jobs. Dental assistants earn an average of $19.27 an hour, making their annual income about $40,080 per year. Most dental assistants work full-time.

If you want to start working as a certified dental assistant (CDA), you must first get certified. Read on to learn how to become a CDA and start working as a dental assistant.

Learn What a CDA Does

A certified dental assistant may be the first or last person a patient sees in the dental exam room. The CDA might help the patient get comfortably seated, or teach the patient about cleaning procedures.

Certified dental assistants assist the dental care team. They prepare work areas for treatments, sterilize instruments, and assist with surgeries. They take dental impressions and also take X-rays.

CDAs may also work on other office tasks such as maintaining inventory, scheduling patients, and taking care of billing.

A certified dental assistant is not the same as a dental hygienist. Hygienists have a wider range of job duties, such as cleaning teeth, checking for disease, and providing other care. They have earned an associate’s degree in dental hygiene.

Graduate from High School

The first step towards becoming a dental assistant is to graduate from high school. High school students can prepare for a CDA career by taking classes in biology and other fields of science.

Graduate from a Dental Assisting Program

Most students seeking certification take classes from a community college, a vocational school, or a dental assistant school. The coursework can last one to two years, depending on whether the student wants a certificate, a diploma, or an associate’s degree. Most programs require in-person instruction, but some have coursework that can be done online.

Applicants for the CDA exam must also have certification in CPR.

Take the Certified Dental Assistant Exam

To achieve certification, students take the CDA exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). The certification process consists of three exams, which cover chairside assisting, radiation safety, and infection control. Each of these exams takes 75-90 minutes.

Examinations can be taken at an approved testing center or as online proctored exams. You can take an online proctored exam inside your home using a camera so that a proctor can check your workspace.

The CDA exam costs $450 in total. If you do not pass one of the component exams, you may reapply and retake the component exams individually for $270 per component.

Become a Certified Dental Assistant

If you want steady work in a growing field, consider becoming a certified dental assistant. You’ll get training in a technical field that also allows you to have patient interaction. You may find that you love helping people keep their teeth clean and healthy!

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