If you are brand new to the field and haven't already read our page What is a
Dental Assistant?, we encourage you to do so before reading some of the
specific information discussed here.
The following is a list of the different types of dental assistants
that you're likely to come across in the state of NJ. Although the formal
titles are listed here first, most people will use the titles as they
are in the parenthesis.
The specific job titles and
requirements may vary from state to state. If you live outside of
New Jersey you are encouraged to look into the specific requirements
for dental assisting in your home state. You may still be able to
take some of our courses or use some of our products, but please be
aware that you are ultimately responsible for meeting the specific
requirements to become a dental assistant where you live. Click here
for more information if you live in the United States, but are looking
to earn your credentials outside of New Jersey.
Most people will
progress through the different levels of credentialing in the order listed
above. At Dental Assistant Services we do our best to prepare the
students in our program
to be qualified, knowledgeable, capable, confident, and prepared not
only to earn their desired credentials, but also to have a
in the field of dental assisting.
While it is still possible in a limited number of offices to begin your
career without any experience or education (technically as an "unregistered dental assistant") and be trained on the job, the
majority of doctors and dental offices prefer to hire someone with
The typical background for someone looking to obtain an entry level
position as a dental assistant in NJ is to have an introduction to the
such as by taking our Introductory
course. This course runs for 20 weeks and covers all of the various dental
assisting materials, terminology, and procedures to get you started in the field with only a minimal amount
of science. While an understanding of basic anatomy is
important and should be understood, the more intense details of anatomy
and physiology are not necessary to become a dental assistant.
Once you have this background knowledge you can begin to work on obtaining a
license that will allow you to take dental x-rays (also called
radiographs). Our NJ State approved Radiology course is a state required
course that will help you to obtain your license. After becoming
a Licensed Dental Radiologic
Technologist (in other words, after getting your dental x-ray license) you
should begin to have an easier time finding a dental assisting job.
In fact, you should
looking for a dental assisting job at this point because the next stage
education will require some work experience. Usually after
getting your dental x-ray license a dental assistant
will begin working towards becoming a Certified Dental Assistant
) certificant. As part of the requirements to obtain this certification you will need
to pass three exams.
Our courses: Review of Radiation
Health & Safety, Infection
Control, and General
help you to earn your CDA
certificate. The good news
is that if you already received your dental x-ray license in NJ, you
probably already took the first of the three exams, and as a result you
will most likely only have to take Infection Control and General
Chairside. However, to obtain a CDA
certificate you will also need at least two years of work
experience. As a result, most students will take Infection
Control and General
Chairside while completing their work experience requirement and
Finally, after you've obtained your CDA
certificate you can begin
preparing to become a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA). This is the highest level of dental assisting offered
in New Jersey. It offers you the most options as far as what
procedures you can legally perform and also makes you the most
marketable and most desired as a potential employee. Our course on Expanded
Functions is designed to prepare you to obtain your RDA
license. This final course can be completed in about 8 weeks (or 2
Please see below for a useful summary about credentials, experience, education, and job responsibilities.
Overview of Credentials
Dental assistant job titles are based upon different
levels of credentialing. You may have for instance
heard someone talking about getting an x-ray license, a CDA
or being an RDA, or an EFDA. While there have been proposals to
nationally standardize the job titles for dental assistants, as it
stands today each state continues to have its own set of job titles, credentialing, and legally acceptable job responsibilities.
Below is a list of some examples
just to show you the variety of job titles that exist nationwide:
Dental Assistant with a Limited
Dental Assistant I / Dental
Traditional Dental Assistant
On-The-Job Trained Dental
Graduate Dental Assistant
Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA)
Pennsylvania and six others
Registered Restorative Assistant
in Extended Functions
Dental Assistant Qualified in
Registered Dental Assistant
Qualified In or To Perform Expanded/Extended Duties/Functions
California, Michigan, Minnesota,
the state of New Jersey there are four different levels of
assisting that you should be familiar with. Without any formal
education or training a person who began working in a dental office
with only on-the-job training would be called an "unregistered dental
assistant". With an introduction to dental assisting and a
license permitting you to take dental x-rays you would be called a
Licensed (or Limited) Dental Radiologic Technologist (LDRT).
speaking though, most people will simply say that they have a dental x-ray license. With at least two years of
experience and training in radiology, infection control, and general
chairside procedures you can earn a Certified Dental Assistant
) certificate. With a little more training you can become licensed as a
Registered Dental Assistant (RDA). An RDA is the highest level of credentialing that a dental assistant can obtain in New
A person hired
simply as a Dental Assistant (technically referred to as an
unregistered dental assistant) who strictly has on-the-job training would be able to greet patients and escort them into the
proper room. You could also handle some office paperwork such as
billing and ordering inventory. Additionally, an unregistered
dental assistant would be expected to maintain infection control
standards and would be permitted to set up and prepare for certain
dental procedures. In some cases, you may also be able to assist
with some of the simpler dental procedures. Fewer employers are hiring dental assistants without any prior training.
A person with their dental x-ray license is technically referred to as a
licensed or limited dental radiologic technologist. Someone with this license would be permitted
to perform all of the functions described above and would also be
allowed to take dental radiographs (x-rays). This is typically
the first license that a dental assistant in New Jersey would attain.
certificate is primarily an educational milestone.
The CDA certification is broken down into three parts (Radiation Health
& Safety, Infection Control, and General Chairside). The
Radiation Health & Safety component is typically contained in the
process of obtaining a Dental Radiologic Technologist license (LDRT),
also known as a dental x-ray license. All of the infection
control and general chairside procedures such as sterilizing
instruments, preparing sharps containers for mailing, and assisting
with restorations, crowns, and root canals can be performed by a dental
assistant without first obtaining a CDA certificate.
Nevertheless, a CDA
certificate is an indication to employers and the
public that you are a
"qualified and knowledgeable professional". The education you'll
obtain in earning your certification will help you to better
understand why certain procedures are performed, why procedures are
performed the way they are, and provide you with an overall more
comprehensive appreciation of what is actually being performed and how
things come together when working on a particular procedure. Additionally, New
law requires that a person seeking to become an RDA first obtain a CDA certificate.
An RDA license is the highest level of licensure that a dental
assistant in New Jersey can obtain. Before becoming an RDA, New
Jersey law requires that you first obtain a CDA
certificate. As far
as the actual responsibilities that an RDA is permitted to perform they
include all of the responsibilities and duties listed above and well as
several others including those listed below.
Only an RDA is legally permitted to place and remove
a rubber dam, place and remove a retraction cord, construct
temporary crowns, remove cement from crowns, take alginate
impressions, place and remove a matrix, remove sutures,
perform bite registrations, place and remove periodontal
dressings, place and remove orthodontic wires, apply fluoride,
and place pit and fissure sealants.
Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)
In order to obtain a COA
certificate, a dental assistant must pass a challenging set of two exams. After successfully obtaining a COA certificate, a dental assistant may use the certification to demostrate proficiency in orthodontic assisting. However in the state of New Jersey a COA certificate does not permit a dental assistant to perform any additional duties than what can legally be performed without the certificate.
One of the more recent Dental Assisting National Board (DANB
) offerings is a CPFDA
certification which became available on April 1, 2011. Originally it was called a CPDA certification, but has since been renamed a CPFDA certification for the sake of clarification. It permits a dental assistant
to perform the following four tasks:
Topical Fluoride Application
Topical Anesthetics Application
According to the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry, NJ based dental
assistants cannot perform coronal polishing (prophy), regardless of
their credentials. The other three tasks listed above can be
performed by a NJ licensed RDA. Thus in the state of NJ, the CPFDA
certification is essentially not applicable.
If you are a NJ based dental assistant you may still take the individual
exams in each of these four areas in order to show proficiency, though
you will still be unable to obtain the full benefits of CPFDA
certification in the state of NJ.
If you live outside of NJ or perhaps live on the border of NJ and
another state and are interested in obtaining a CPFDA
certification elsewhere, you can visit DANB's
website for further
information. They have a useful summary
that shows which states permit (or more precisely do not prohibit) all four tasks to
be carried out by a dental assistant as well as which states expressly
prohibit one or more of the specific tasks. More detailed
information can also be found in the CPFDAExam Application Packet.
Construct temporary crowns, take
alginate impressions, remove sutures, place and remove a matrix and
orthodontic wires, and more.
1A Licensed Dental Radiologic Technologist may also
be referred to as a Limited
Dental Radiologic Technologist, where the word limited emphasizes the
fact that someone with this license is limited to taking only dental
radiographs (or x-rays) as opposed to medical images on other parts of
the body. A Dental Radiologic Technologist may also be
abbreviated DRT. In practice however, most people will simply
say that they have a dental
x-ray license. 2If you obtained your dental x-ray license in NJ you will likely not have to take our Review of Radiation Health & Safety couse to obtain a CDA
certificate. 3The courses are usually taken in the order listed here;
though it is not an absolute requirement.
about the process and requirements of obtaining a dental x-ray license, a CDA
certificate, and/or becoming an RDA is available
on the corresponding course description pages, while an overview of the
courses and a summary of the order of when the courses are generally
taken is provided here.