Discover How to Advance Your Dental Assistant Career
As a dental assistant, you play a vital role in helping patients maintain good oral health. You work alongside dentists and hygienists to provide patient care, support the day-to-day operations of the dental office, and ensure a positive experience for patients.
While many people enter the field as dental assistants, you may be one of the many who aspire to advance their careers and take on new responsibilities. Luckily, dental assisting is a growing field with a wide range of advancement opportunities. Below are some of the most common advancement opportunities for dental assistants:
Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
After completing a dental assisting program, you can progress to a certified dental assistant by passing the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exam. This certification can lead to higher pay and more dental assistant job opportunities.
Make sure to renew it every year and complete continuing education requirements. The DANB requires 12 hours of continuing education every year, which can be fulfilled through courses, seminars, or other forms of education.
Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA)
To become an expanded functions dental assistant, you must undergo additional training and education. The specific requirements for becoming an EFDA can vary depending on the state in which you work, so it’s essential to research the requirements for your location.
Here are some general steps that a dental assistant can take to become an EFDA:
- In most cases, dental assistants looking to become an EFDA will need to complete a dental assisting program that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or an equivalent organization.
- Some states require dental assistants to have some practical experience before they can become an EFDA.
- Many dental assisting programs offer EFDA training as an add-on to their regular dental assisting curriculum. These programs can range from a few weeks to a few months and typically cover topics such as restorative dentistry, orthodontics, and other advanced dental procedures.
- Once you have completed your education and training, you will need to pass an exam to become certified as an EFDA. The exam may be administered by a state or regional board or by a professional organization such as DANB.
- To maintain your EFDA certification, you may need to complete continuing education courses or pass additional exams periodically.
Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH)
Another way dental assistants can advance their careers is by pursuing further education and training to become registered dental hygienists through certification programs or associate degree programs in dental hygiene.
In order to progress your career from dental assistant to dental hygienist, you’ll need some practical experience in addition to passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and a clinical board exam. After passing these exams, you’ll need to obtain a license from your state’s dental board to practice as a dental hygienist. To maintain your licensure, you will typically need to complete continuing education courses and renew your license periodically.
Please note that the specific requirements for you to advance your career into dental hygiene will vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with your employer or professional organization to ensure you are following the correct path to become a dental hygienist.
Become an RDH Teacher
To advance from a dental assistant to a dental hygienist and eventually become an RDH teacher, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and in some cases a master’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field. This allows individuals with the right knowledge and skills to gain teaching experience by working as a dental hygiene instructor or a clinical instructor in a dental hygiene program or at a dental school.
The dental assistant career progression can vary based on factors such as years of experience, education, and opportunities available in your workplace. However, continuing to gain education, experience, and certifications can help you achieve your career goals.