Are you thinking about becoming a successful dental assistant but not sure what you need to do?

Have you heard about something called ‘dental assistant certification’ and need clarification on whether it’s necessary?

Don’t worry; we’re here to help you understand what it means to be a dental assistant and whether getting certified is important.

When it comes to getting hired as a dental assistant, having a certification is usually the top thing employers look for. It shows that you know how to do the job well, like helping with dental procedures and caring for patients.

In this article, we’ll explain what it means to be a certified dental assistant, the different types of certifications available, and answer some common questions about this career.

Let’s begin!

See: What is a Dental Assistant

dental forceps

What is a Certified Dental Assistant?

A certified dental assistant is a healthcare professional who has undergone specialized training and obtained certification in dental assisting, which involves providing support and assistance to dentists during various dental procedures.

So, how can you achieve certification as a dental assistant?

You can get certification by applying for it after successfully completing a dental assisting training program.

To become a certified dental assistant, you’ll need to enroll in educational training programs that are typically offered at community colleges, vocational schools, or through online courses.

Following the completion of their training, aspiring dental assistants usually need to pass a certification examination. This examination is administered by various organizations such as the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) or other relevant dental associations.

Obtaining certification as a dental assistant is highly regarded as it demonstrates your proficiency and commitment to your role. It not only enhances your employment prospects but also opens doors to better job opportunities, increased compensation, and potential career advancement.

What are the Different Types of Dental Assistant Certifications?

Now that you are familiar with the role of a dental assistant, your next question may involve the type of certification to go for.

This decision can be confusing given the multitude of certification options available in the field of dental assisting, making the selection process quite daunting.

To assist you in making an informed choice, we have outlined three of the most prevalent and reputable certifications offered by nationally recognized organizations that you can consider:

1. National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) – DANB:

Cost: $270

Renewal Period: Every year

Also offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), the NELDA certification is the main certification for entry-level dental assistants. It demonstrates your foundational knowledge and skills in dental assisting, making it an excellent choice if you’re just starting your career in dental assisting.

These certifications are designed to enhance your dental assisting career and can open up various opportunities for professional growth. Consider your career goals and regional requirements when choosing the most suitable certification for your path as a dental assistant.

One important thing to note here is that for entry-level dental assistants, obtaining the NELDA certification is recommended over any other certifications.

The NELDA certification requires you to clear three different exams, including the Anatomy, Morphology, and Physiology (AMP), the Radiation Health & Safety (RHS), and the Infection Control (ICE) exams.

dental x-rays.

2. Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) – DANB:

Cost: $420

Renewal Period: Every year

Also administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), the CDA certification is widely acknowledged as a mark of proficiency in dental assisting, showcasing your expertise in various dental procedures and patient care.

This exam is usually recommended for individuals who have had sufficient dental assistant experience and is not recommended for entry-level aspirants.

The CDA exam also requires you to clear three exams, two of which are similar to the NELDA certification, including the ICE, RHS, and the General Chairside Assisting (GC) exam.

3. Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) – ADA or State Dental Boards:

Cost and renewal requirements vary based on the certifying body

The EFDA certification can be obtained through the American Dental Association (ADA) or state dental boards. It endorses your advanced skills in performing specific dental procedures, such as placing sealants or coronal polishing.

These certifications are designed to enhance your dental assisting career and can open up various opportunities for professional growth. Consider your career goals and regional requirements when choosing the most suitable certification for your path as a dental assistant.

4. Dental Radiology Assistant – State Licensing and Additional Certifications:

Cost and requirements for renewal may vary by state

The role of a Dental Radiology Assistant, also known as an X-ray dental Assistant, specializes in capturing and processing dental X-rays, helping dentists in diagnosing oral health conditions. To become a Dental Radiology Assistant, you may need to obtain specific certifications and meet state licensing requirements, which can vary from one location to another.

One primary method of becoming a Dental Radiology Assistant is through state licensing and additional certifications. The cost and prerequisites for these certifications can differ based on the regulations of the specific state in which you plan to practice.

Is Certification Really Required?

Many people wonder if they really need to get certified.

Even though some places don’t demand certification, most employers prefer hiring folks who are certified.

When you become a certified dental assistant, it shows employers that you’re skilled, professional, and dedicated to your work. It means you’ve met the high standards of the field and passed a certification test.

Employers like hiring certified dental assistants because they know you have the right abilities for the job. Being certified can also lead to better job opportunities, higher pay, and chances to move up in your career.

day in life of dental assistant.

What is the Difference Between a Dental Assistant Certificate and Certification?

In the world of dental assisting, there are two important terms to understand: Dental Assistant Certificate and Dental Assistant Certification.

A Dental Assistant Certificate typically refers to a training program or course that provides education and hands-on training for individuals who want to become dental assistants. Schools or colleges often offer these programs.

When you successfully complete a Dental Assistant Certificate program, you receive a certificate of completion. This certificate shows that you have finished your training and coursework in dental assisting.

It’s like a diploma that confirms your education in this field. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a certified dental assistant.

On the other hand, Dental Assistant Certification is a different thing. It’s a professional credential that proves your competence and knowledge as a dental assistant. To become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), you typically need to pass a certification exam, which is usually administered by organizations like the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

When you earn this certification, it means you’ve met specific industry standards and have the skills required to work as a dental assistant. Employers often prefer to hire certified dental assistants because they’ve demonstrated their proficiency through a standardized test.


In summary, dental assistant certification is like a badge of expertise for dental assistants. It shows you’re skilled and dedicated.

While a certificate is good, certification can lead to better jobs and higher pay. It tells employers you’re serious and capable of providing excellent care to patients.

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