How to Become a Dental Assistant in Arizona

According to the Arizona Department of Administration, there were 6,259 dental assistants employed in the State in 2012; but by 2013 this number increased to 6,552. By 2022, the Department of Administration projects there will be 8,384 dental assistants practicing in the state.

This represents a projected 34 percent job growth rate, much greater than the national average projections for this profession of 25 percent.

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Individuals who want to learn how to become a dental assistant must understand the requirements set forth by the Arizona Dental Association. Although these professionals are not licensed, their duties are nevertheless regulated. Dental assistants that perform expanded duties in Arizona must be certified to do so.

Dental Assistant Schools in Arizona

Dental assistants in the State of Arizona are permitted to perform basic supportive dental procedures, under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist, without any state-mandated education or training. However, dental assistants who perform a number of advanced duties must possess specific education and training as to receive certification in:

  • Radiologic proficiency certification (x-ray) certification
  • Coronal polishing

All dental assistant candidates can benefit from a comprehensive dental assistant program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), the sole accrediting agency for dental assistant programs approved by the U.S. Department of Education. There are currently 3 programs accredited by CODA in Arizona.

A dental assistant program, which typically lasts about 10 months and ends in a clinical experience, prepares dental assistants to achieve both state and national certification, thereby establishing themselves as advanced professionals in their field. Courses in a dental assisting program often include:

  • Basic body systems and functions
  • Oral anatomy
  • Oral radiology
  • Chairside assisting
  • Dental sciences
  • Dental materials
  • Office applications
  • Computer applications

Training and Certification Programs in Arizona

Beyond a CODA-accredited program in dental assisting, dental assistants in Arizona can further their education and therefore their career by becoming certified in the following advanced functions:

Radiologic Proficiency Certification

Becoming x-ray certified is not a requirement for dental assistants in Arizona. However, those who become x-ray certified are allowed to expose radiographs for dental diagnostic purposes under the general supervision of a licensed dentist.

To become certified in x-ray in Arizona, dental assistants must successfully complete an examination process that has been approved by the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners. The examination process involves the successful completion of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) component exam.

The content of the Radiation Health and Safety exam includes:

  • Expose and evaluate

    • Select appropriate radiographic techniques
    • Select appropriate equipment for radiographic techniques
    • Infection control techniques and barriers
    • Patient management techniques related to radiographic exposure
    • Acquiring radiographic images
    • Basic knowledge of digital radiography and other modern imaging techniques
    • Radiographic images for diagnostic value
  • Conventional film processing
  • Mount and label
  • Radiation safety

Dental assistants can best prepare to take this certification examination by taking the Oral Radiography Review for Dental Assistants course through the Arizona Dental Association. This course can be taken at Phoenix College, Pima Community College (Tucson), or Progressive Dental Academy (Scottsdale). Individuals can learn more about registering for this course by contacting the Arizona Dental Association at 480-344-5777.

Individuals can contact DANB regarding registration for the examinations at 1-800-367-3262.

Once the examinations have been passed, dental assistants in Arizona must apply to the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners (ASBDE) for Dental Assistant Radiography Certification by Credential. There are no renewal requirements for this certification.

Coronal Polishing

Dental assistants who want to perform coronal polishing procedures in Arizona must:

  • Pass the DANB Coronal Polish exam (Coronal Polish Exam for Arizona Residents): Form A application packet (The DANB administers the complete certification program for coronal polishing, including providing the exam information, distributing applications, testing, issuing certificate, and handling inquiries.)
  • Submit an Arizona Coronal Polishing Clinical Skills Affidavit: Form B (must be completed by a licensed dentist or coronal polishing educator or course instructor

Dental assistants must complete the above to receive an Arizona Coronal Polishing Certificate and begin performing coronal polishing.

The outline for the DANB Coronal Polish Exam includes:

  • Dental and oral anatomy
  • Oral prophylaxis
  • Objective of coronal polish
  • Dental deposits
  • Polishing technique
  • Infection control/OSHA protocol
  • Polishing precautions
  • Patient education and recordkeeping
  • Abrasives and polishing agents

Other DANB Certification Options

In addition to completing training to perform coronal polishing or x-rays, dental assistants in Arizona may pursue a number of professional certifications through DANB. The most common certification for dental assistants is the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). To be eligible for CDA certification, candidates must take and pass three component exams.

To qualify to take the CDA examinations, candidates must have either graduated from a CODA-accredited dental assistant program or possess at least 3,500 hours of experience in dental assisting. Other DANB certifications include:

  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)

All DANB certifications must be renewed on an annual basis upon completion of 30 continuing education credits. Continuing education for dental assistants is often completed through The Dale Foundation, the affiliate of DANB. The Dale Foundation is also a valuable resource for:

  • Learning about the dental assistant career path
  • DANB certification study aids
  • Meeting state requirements

Dental Assistant Job Duties and Responsibilities in Arizona

Dental assistants in Arizona may perform the following duties under direct supervision:

  • Remove sutures
  • Apply topical fluorides
  • Place and remove dental dams
  • Apply sealants
  • Fabricate and place interim restorations with temporary cement
  • Remove interim restorations with hand instruments
  • Observe a patient under nitrous oxide and oxygen analgesia
  • Remove excess cement from bridges, crowns, inlays, and orthodontic appliances
  • Remove periodontal dressings
  • Place bands, crowns, and restorations
  • Place dental material into a patient’s mouth

Dental assistants in Arizona may perform the following duties under general supervision:

  • Collect and record information regarding extraoral conditions
  • Train and instruct patients in oral hygiene techniques and preventative procedures
  • Educate patients on plaque control
  • Provide patients with pre- and post-operative instructions

Dental assistants in Arizona are not permitted to perform the following:

  • Take final impressions
  • Intraoral carvings of dental restorations
  • Final jaw registrations
  • Activate orthodontic appliances
  • An irreversible procedure

Additional information on Alaska dental assistants can be found through the Alaska Dental Society. The Alaska Dental Society provides members with a wealth of resources, including employment opportunities, mentor programs, continuing education opportunities, and the latest news on the dental practice in Alaska.

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