What is a Dental Assistant (DA), Clinical Assistant and Business Assistant?

The Dental Assistant works in behalf of the patient as well as the dentist in helping to assure a high level of professional excellence in oral health care delivery. Helping this health care professional to do a better job is the goal of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA).

The Dental Assistant takes on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team. If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind and want a career with responsibility, dental assisting is for you.

The best way to become a Dental Assistant is to receive formal education. Studying in a Commission on Dental Accreditation accredited program provides education that is based on the latest procedures and techniques.  Procedures a dental assistant may perform are regulated on a state-by-state basis and may not include duties assigned to dental hygienists. But the varied activities of an Assistant in most states make for a challenging, interesting and responsible position whether Chairside or in the business office. Having manual dexterity and physically capable to withstand bending, sitting and standing for shorter to longer periods of time is essential.

In some areas of the country, Dental Assistants can begin their careers without a college degree; however, education is encouraged. Assistants often have considerable freedom to choose their own hours. So if a career in health care and 1-2 years of formal education appeals to you, then dental assisting is a career you will want to explore.

In smaller practices, the assistant might work with the dentist as well as managing the business aspects of the practice such as scheduling, billing and purchasing. In larger practices, the duties may be more specialized. Many Assistants are qualified to take x-rays...expose radiographs as it is properly called. In most dental offices, the Dental Assistant is in charge of infection control procedures, which are closely regulated by OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The complexity and importance of this task is a real challenge for any professional, requiring constant updates to remain current with registrations.

A career as a Dental Assistant offers many challenges. In addition to assisting the dentist during a variety of procedures, other specific tasks dental assistants may perform include taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays), sterilizing instruments, equipment maintenance and taking impressions of patients' teeth.

The duties of a Dental Assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills. Although state regulations vary, some specific tasks dental assistants may perform include:

Assisting the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures;

Taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays);

Asking about the patient's medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse;

Serving as an infection control officer, developing infection control protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment;

Helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment;

Providing patients with instructions for oral care following surgery or other dental treatment procedures, such as the placement of a restoration (filling);

Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health; (e.g., tooth brushing, flossing and nutritional counseling);

Taking impressions of patients' teeth for study casts (models of teeth);

Performing office management tasks that often require the use of a personal computer;

Communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g., scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, billing and ordering supplies); and

Assisting with and helping to provide direct patient care in all dental specialties, including orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and oral surgery.

Variety: Dental Assistants have one of the most diverse and interesting of all positions in a dental office. Dental assisting is a challenging and rewarding career, demanding versatility and a willingness to assume responsibility for many different tasks.

Flexibility: Since Dental Assistants are in demand; career options include both full-time and part-time positions

Excellent working conditions: Dental offices are interesting, pleasant, people-oriented environments in which to work.

Personal satisfaction: Dental Assisting involves people contact, and with this personal interaction comes the personal satisfaction of knowing you've really helped someone by helping to provide a valuable health service.

As oral health becomes an essential, recognized factor in America's public health agenda, the importance of dental healthcare team members grows. With this growth and recognition, the importance and role of the Dental Assistant has become more focused as job opportunities have increased. TDAA Objectives & Policy

The Texas Dental Assistants Association (TDAA):

The Texas Dental Assistants Association (TDAA) has been a professional association of the 9th District of the American Dental Assistants Association since 1940, providing the voice, guidance and education for Texas Dental Assistants. The Texas Dental Assistants Association recognizes that dental assistants performing direct patient care share in the responsibility in the delivery of quality dental health care to all. The Texas Dental Assistants Association promotes the practice of dental assisting toward the highest standards of performance obtainable by supporting and encouraging formal education and meeting a standard of achievement as defined by the State Board of Dental Examiners by registration (RDA) and the Dental Assisting National Board credential of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). TDAA Local Organizations

TDAA's Local Dental Assistants Societies:  The Texas Dental Assistants Association’s Local Dental Assistants Societies are components of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), are Texas State Board of Dental Examiner’s (TSBDE) Approved Providers of Dental Assisting Continuing Education (CE) Courses and are Program Sponsors of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified, Certification:  The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified, Certification are Assistants that have become certified by passing an examination that evaluates their knowledge.  Dental Assistants who choose to become nationally certified and pass the Dental Assisting National Board's (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination and stay current can use the CDA Credential.

Becoming a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) assures the public that the Dental Assistant is prepared to assist competently in the provision of dental care.

Dental Assistants are eligible to take the CDA examination if they have completed a dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).  Individuals who have been trained on the job or have graduated from non-accredited programs are eligible to take the national certification examination after they have completed two years of full-time work experience as dental assistants. Some states also recognize passage of components of the CDA examination, such as the Radiation Health and Safety examination, or the Infection Control examination, for licensing and regulatory purposes. State regulations vary, and some states offer registration or licensure in addition to this national certification program.

Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA):  The mission of the Commission on Dental Accreditation is to serve the public by establishing, maintaining and applying standards that ensure the quality and continuous improvement of dental and dental-related education and reflect the evolving practice of dentistry. The scope of the Commission on Dental Accreditation encompasses dental, advanced dental and allied dental education programs.

Dental education accreditation, initiated in the early 1900s, is conducted today by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, which operates under the auspices of the American Dental Association (ADA). It is a peer review mechanism that includes the involvement of members of the discipline, the broad educational community, employers, practitioners, the dental licensing community and public members. All of these groups participate in a process designed to ensure educational quality.

Activities for the Commission would include formulating and approving accreditation standards by which programs are evaluated; establishing policies and procedures for conducting the accreditation program; determining and publicizing program accreditation status; and appointing consultants and site visitors to assist in accreditation activities.

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA):  A Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) usually has attended an American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Dental Accreditation (CODA) approved school & has passed an examination administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).  However, some Assistants who did not attend a CODA Approved Dental Assistant Program/School have challenged the DANB Examination and have become CDA’s. A CDA is required by DANB to have twelve (12) hours of approved continued education (CE) each year and pay an annual fee to retain the credential of CDA.

Texas Registered Dental Assistant (RDA):  A Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) is required by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiner’s (SBDE) to have at least six (6) hours of approved continuing education (CE) each year and pay an annual fee to retain the credential of RDA.  A Texas RDA has proved, by testing, to be competent in Radiology, Infection Control and Jurisprudence, has made application to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiner's SBDE, and has paid a fee to the SBDE for both application and registration. Registered Dental Assistants who have other Certifications must attest to having up-to twelve (12) hours of approved CE each renewal.

“Certificate of Completion,” i.e. Course Completion Certificate:  A TDAA Certificate of Completion a.k.a. Course Completion Certificate is awarded to each student completing the required Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (SBDE) Dental Assistant Course & passing the exit Examination.  It is to reflect the student's name, the course, number of hours, and the date of completion.  A Certificate of Completion (the original) is to be kept in the Dental Assistant's personal records file for safekeeping.  A Certificate of Completion in no way indicates the privilege of using the credential CDA or RDA. Please refer to the terms Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) and Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) listed above. A copy of the Course Completion Certificate received is critical in assisting Dental Assistants in making application to the SBDE for Dental Assistant Registration. Application Again, registration is a two-step process.

ADA Accredited Dental Assisting Schools/Programs: ADA Accredited Dental Assisting Programs/Schools are programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and have been granted the accreditation status of Approved (without reporting requirements). The Commission on Dental Accreditation is a specialized component of the American Dental Association and is recognized by the United States Department of Education. Accredited Programs in Texas.

ADA Non-Accredited Dental Assisting Schools/Programs: ADA Non-Accredited Dental Assisting Programs/Schools are Dental Assistant Courses that are offered through Regional, State, and local Dental Conferences, as well, as private and public institutions in Texas. There are also programs offered that are non-accredited by ADA, but provide knowledge necessary to begin a Dental Assisting Career. Dental Links & Continuing Education

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (SBDE), (TSBDE);

The State Board of Dental Examiners (SBDE) is an agency of the Texas Government charged with creating the rules and regulations, necessary to enforce those laws. Other Dental Links

Texas Registered, Registration of, Registered Dental Assistants (RDA): The State Board of Dental Examiners is the sole authority in the state of Texas to issue the RDA credential. Only Dental Assistants formally registered with the SBDE may use this credential. Public: Credential Verification

Law: The term Law is a principle governing action or procedure. It implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority.  Laws are created or amended by the Texas Legislature and cannot be modified or waived by the SBDE.

Rules and Regulations, "Rules and Regs": Rules and Regulations is a term that means to govern or direct according to rule. (1) To bring under the control of law or constituted authority (2) To make regulations for or concerning law.  Rules are adopted by state agencies, usually with specific rulemaking authority from the Legislature.  The practice and regulation of dentistry in Texas are governed by the Dental Practice Act (DPA).  Rules that further clarify the law as set out by the Texas Occupations Code. The TSBDE rules and regulations come under the Texas Administrative Code and are a resource to study prior to passing the required Dental Assistant Course and Examination.

Jurisprudence: Jurisprudence is the collection of rules imposed by authority.

Dental Practice Act (DPA): The Dental Practice Act is published by the TSBDE, and contains portions of the Texas Occupations Code relevant to the dental professional. The DPA is a resource to study prior to passing the required Dental Assistant Course and Examination.

Texas Administrative Code (TAC): The Texas Administrative Code is a compilation of all state agency rules in Texas.

Texas Occupations Code (TOC): The Texas Occupations Code is a compilation of the laws enacted by the Texas Legislature. See: Dental Practice Act (DPA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves.

Since it was founded in 1946 to help control malaria, CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities, and environmental health threats. Today, CDC is globally recognized for conducting research and investigations and for its action oriented approach. CDC applies research and findings to improve people’s daily lives and responds to health emergencies—something that distinguishes CDC from its peer agencies.

CDC is committed to achieving true improvements in people’s health. See: What’s new!

Centers for Disease Control

National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health
1600 Clifton Road, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30333 USA
(800) 232-4636

Direct Supervision: Direction Supervision is a term that means the employing dentist or dentist in charge must be physically present in the dental office when the delegated act is performed and is available. Chapter 265

Indirect Supervision: Indirect or General Supervision is a term that means the employing dentist or dentist in charge may not be physically present in the dental office when the delegated act is performed. Chapter 265

Reversible: Reversible is a term that means capable of being reversed. Ref: An act or procedure that is capable of being reversed or corrected.

Irreversible: Irreversible is a term that means not reversible. Ref: Acts or procedures that are irreversible include, but are not limited to, the results of intra-oral use of any laser for any purpose. Rule 114.1.

SOURCE: The provisions of this §104.1 adopted to be effective March 1, 1996, 21 TexReg 1422; amended to be effective April 19, 1998, 23 TexReg 3830; amended to be effective June 28, 1998, 23 TexReg 6440; amended to be effective November 30, 1999, 24 TexReg 10539; amended to be effective April 16, 2000, 25 TexReg 3250; amended to be effective July 1, 2002, 27 TexReg 5782; amended to be effective September 21, 2004, 29 TexReg 9004; amended to be effective February 25, 2007, 32 TexReg 627; amended to be effective December 24, 2007, 32 TexReg 9628; amended to be effective August 7, 2008, 33 TexReg 6132; amended to be effective February 2, 2010, 35 TexReg 630

Grandfather, “Grandmother” Clause: The term Grandfather or Grandmother Clause is a predicate created as an exemption based on circumstances previously existing.

Tripartite: Is a term that means involving three parties or elements. Example: "a tripartite treaty;" "a tripartite division;" "A tripartite agreement."

Coastal Bend: Coastal Bend is a region in Texas that encompasses the counties of: Arkansas, Bee, Duval, Jim Wells, Kleberg, McMullen, Nueces and San Patricio.

Fourth District: Fourth District is a North Central region in Texas that encompasses the counties of: Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains and Rockwall.

Approved Dental Assistant Courses with an Exam: 

Approved Dental Assistant Courses with an Exam is a qualifying course for Registration and is a listing of Dental Assistant Courses and Examinations approved by the TSBDE. Courses NOT listed are not being considered approved and will not be accepted as a qualifying course for registration. This list is available on the Texas State Board of Dental Examiner’s website and will be continually updated.

Approved Providers of Dental Assisting Continuing Education (CE) Courses/Lectures:  Approved Providers of Dental Assisting Continuing Education (CE) Courses/Lectures is a listing of TSBDE Approved Providers of Dental Continuing Education (CE) Courses.  These Approved Providers are different from the providers of the Dental Assistant Course and Examination.

Continuing Education course endorsed by the following providers will meet the criteria for acceptable continuing education hours, if such hours are either technical or scientific as related to clinical care and in the content as certified by the following providers under Rule 104.2 - Providers

SOURCE:  The provisions of this §114.2 adopted to be effective effective May 10, 2004, 29 TexReg 4479; amended to be effective November 5, 2006, 31 TexReg 8834; amended to be effective February 2, 2010, 35 TexReg 635

Glossary of Dental Nomenclature, i.e. Terminology, Language:  A great resource to study prior to passing the Texas required Dental Assistant Course and Examination.

Useful Dental and Oral Health Links





List of Acronyms

AADE       American Association of Dental Examiners

ACLS        Advanced Cardiac Life Support

ADA         American Dental Association

ADAA      American Dental Assistants Association

ADEX      American Board of Dental Examiners

ADEA      American Dental Education Association

ADR        Alternative Dispute Resolution

AED        Automated External Defibrillator

AGD        Academy of General Dentistry

AHA        American Heart Association

AMA        American Medical Association

ALS          Advanced Life Support

ASA         American Society of Anesthesiologists

BLS         Basic Life Support

CDA       Certified Dental Assistant

CDC       Centers for Disease Control

CDT       Certified Dental Technician

CE          Continuing Education

CERP     Certified Education Recognition Program

CO2        Carbon Dioxide

CODA    Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association

CPR        Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

CPU        Central Processing Unit

CRDTS   Central Regional Dental Testing Service, Inc.

CRNA     Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

DANB    Dental Assisting National Board

DDS        Doctor of Dental Surgery

DEA        Drug Enforcement Agency

DHAC    Dental Hygiene Advisory Committee

DLAT     Dental Laboratory Association of Texas

DLCC     Dental Laboratory Certification Council

DMD      Doctor of Dental Medicine

DO          Doctor of Osteopathy

DPA        Dental Practice Act

DPS        Department of Public Safety

EKG       Electrocardiogram

EPA        Environmental Protection Agency

FAX        Facsimile

FDA       Food and Drug Administration

FAGD      Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry

FAAFS     Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

FAQS       Frequently Asked Questions

GED        General Equivalency Diploma

GI             Gastrointestinal

HAV        Hepatitis A Virus

HbeAg     Hepatitis B e antigen

HBV        Hepatitis B Virus

HIPAA     Health Insurance Privacy Accountability Act

HIV          Human Immunodeficiency Virus

IM            Intramuscular

IN            Intranasal

ISC           Informal Settlement Conference

IV             Intravenous

LAN        Local Area Network

MD          Doctor of Medicine

ME          Medical Examiner

NERB     North East Regional Board

OSHA     Occupational Safety and Health Administration

PBIS        Professional Background Information Services

PRN        Professional Recovery Network

RDA        Registered Dental Assistant

RDH       Registered Dental Hygienist

SBDE      (Texas) State Board of Dental Examiners

SC            Subcutaneous

SOAH     State Office of Administrative Hearings

SRTA      Southern Regional Testing Agency

TAC        Texas Administrative Code

TDA        Texas Dental Association

TDAA     Texas Dental Assistants Association

TDHA    Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association

TDAEA   Texas Dental Assistant Educators’ Association

TDHEA  Texas Dental Hygiene Educators’ Association

TOC         Texas Occupations Code

TSBDE    Texas State Board of Dental Examiners

WREB     Western Regional Examining Board

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