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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Washington, DC

According to the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, there were 520 dental assistants in Washington D.C. as of May 2013. The total number of dental assistants in the Washington-Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV metropolitan statistical area was 6,170 during the same period. It is projected that dental assistant jobs in Washington D.C. will grow at an impressive rate of 19.3 percent between 2012 and 2022.

The D.C. Board of Dentistry regulates the practice of dentistry, dental assisting, and dental hygiene in the District. It also evaluates qualifications, administers examinations, and recommends standards and procedures. The DC Board of Dentistry recognizes two dental assistant professional levels:

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Level I Dental Assistant: A Level I dental assistant in Washington D.C. must:

  • Be a high school graduate or hold a GED; AND
  • Complete a course in dental radiography training through a program that is approved by the D.C. Board of Dentistry*; AND
  • Apply to the D.C. Board of Dentistry for registration as a Level I dental assistant

There are no educational requirements for a Level I dental assistant in Washington D.C.

Level II Dental Assistant: A Level II dental assistant in Washington D.C. must:

  • Be a high school graduate or hold a GED; AND
  • Complete a course in dental radiography training through a program that is approved by the D.C. Board of Dentistry*; AND
  • Apply to the D.C. Board of Dentistry for registration as a Level II dental assistant

Educational requirements for Level II dental assistants include:

  • The completion of a dental assisting education program either accredited by Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or approved by the D.C. Board of Dentistry; OR
  • The possession of the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

*Approved dental radiography training courses must be: (1) recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP); or (2) certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists; or (3) completed through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), along with successfully completing the required examination.

Dental Assisting Schools in Washington, D.C.

The completion of a dental assisting program that has been accredited by the is a wise move for any dental assistant to make, as it prepares them to become a Level II dental assistant in the District, thereby allowing them to increase their salary potential and qualify for more dental assistant jobs.

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You know you’re ready to make the move to become an administrative or clinical dental assistant. All you need is the training to make it happen. Learn more about flexible training options and the cost of programs in your area.

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Although the completion of a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited program is not a requirement to work as a Level II dental assistant in Washington D.C., these programs would not require separate approval from the D.C. Board of Dentistry.

Dental assisting programs, which are typically less than a year in duration, are structured as certificate programs that provide students with all the necessary coursework and hands-on experiences to become a dental assistant..

Programs may be offered through vocational/technical schools, community colleges, dental schools, and distance education programs, and all programs end in a clinical rotation.

Although not as common programs may also be designed as associate degree programs and therefore take about two years to complete.

The District of Columbia Department of Employment Services reports that 25 percent of all dental assistants in the District possess a high school diploma or the equivalent, while another 50 percent possess an academic certificate. The remaining 25 percent possess an associate’s degree.

National Certification Options in Dental Assisting

Beyond a program in dental assisting, dental assistants often seek to further their careers by achieving national certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

DANB certification meets the educational requirement for Level II dental assistant registration, as well as radiographic training requirements for both Level I and Level II dental assistants. DANB certifications (each of which consist of between 2 and 4 component examinations) include:

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

To achieve certification in any of the above DANB credentials, dental assistants must take and pass the credential’s component examinations and then meet continuing education requirements, which include the completion of at least 30 continuing education credits annually.

Applying for Dental Assistant Registration in Washington, D.C.

Upon meeting the educational and training requirements to become a Level I or Level II dental assistant in Washington D.C., candidates must apply for registration. Applications for both Level I and Level I registration can be found here. In addition to completing a registration application, candidates must submit a number of supporting documents with their application:

  • Two passport-size photographs (2×2)
  • A copy of a government-issued photo ID
  • Documents related to name changes (marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.), if applicable
  • Official copy of a high school diploma or GED
  • Copy of a current basic CPR/first aid certification
  • Certificate of completion from a radiation course
  • Certificate of completion from a dental assistant program (if applicable)
  • Character references
  • Examination scores from the DANB (if applicable)
  • $190 application and registration fee (made payable to the D.C. Treasurer)

All applicants must also undergo a criminal background check. To begin the process, individuals must call 1-877-783-4187 to schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted.

Upon receipt of the application for registration, the D.C. Board of Dentistry will review the application. (The Board meets on the third Wednesday of each month.) Upon approval by the Board, candidates will be issued a registration to be a dental assistant in the District of Columbia.

Completed and signed applications and all related documentation must be sent to:

Department of Health
Health Professional Licensing Administration
Board of Dentistry – Processing Center
899 North Capitol Street
Washington, D.C. 20002

Questions about the application process can be directed to the Department of Health’s customer service line at 1-877-672-2174.

All D.C. dental assistant registrations expire on December 31 of odd-numbered years. All registration holders will be mailed a renewal notice about three months before the expiration of their registration. Registered dental assistants are required to complete a renewal questionnaire and submit their continuing education information before renewal can take place.

Level I vs. Level II Dental Assistant: What’s the Difference?

The permissible job duties of Level I and Level II dental assistants is what sets these allied healthcare professionals apart:

Level I Dental Assistant Allowable Duties under Supervision

  • Place matrices
  • Rinse and aspirate the oral cavity
  • Retract the lips, cheek, tongue, and flaps
  • Remove temporary restorations
  • Apply topical anesthesia
  • Construct athletic mouth guards
  • Apply medicinal agents to a tooth
  • Perform intraoral photography
  • Cure by the use of a halogen light
  • Check for loose bands
  • Whitening
  • Place retraction cord
  • Remove sutures
  • Place periodontal dressings
  • Take impressions

Level II Dental Assistant Allowable Duties under Direct Supervision

  • Apply topical fluoride
  • Place/remove rubber dams
  • Remove or place periodontal dressings
  • Prepare and fit stainless steel crowns
  • Place/remove matrix bands
  • Fabricate indirect restorations
  • Prepare temporary crowns
  • Perform vitality tests
  • Remove excess cement
  • Remove temporary restorations
  • Construct athletic mouth guards
  • Apply desensitizing agents
  • All of the above Level I allowable duties

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