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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Florida

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported a total of 16,530 dental assistants working in the State as of 2013. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Florida fourth in the nation in terms of employment of dental assistants that same year.

The Florida Board of Dentistry is responsible for ensuring that all dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants meet the state’s minimum requirements for safe practice.

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In Florida, dental assistants may be assigned specific remedial tasks, referred to as expanded functions. These remedial tasks, which are outlined in Florida’s Administrative Code, require dental assistants to obtain formal training through a Florida Board of Dentistry-approved provider.

In addition, all dental radiographers must apply to the Department of Health for a state-issued dental radiography certificate upon completing required training.

Note: Florida does NOT recognize Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification as a pathway to certification as an expanded functions or dental radiographer dental assistant certification. Florida also does NOT provide reciprocity to any other state registrations, expanded functions, or dental radiographer certification.

To become a dental assistant in Florida, individuals must ensure they complete specific requirements outlined in Florida Administrative Code and enforced by the Florida Board of Dentistry.

Florida’s Education and Training Requirements for Dental Assistants

To work as a dental assistant with expanded function or radiography privileges, dental assistants in Florida must complete specific training courses approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry OR complete a dental assisting program that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the American Dental Association as the only accreditation agency for dental professional education programs.

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In other words, graduates of CODA-accredited dental assisting programs are recognized to have met the educational and training requirements to perform expanded functions and radiography duties.

Fortunately, dental assistants in Florida have a wide range of programs in dental assisting from which to choose, as there are currently 25 CODA-accredited programs in the Sunshine State. A CODA-accredited dental assisting program:

  • Is a certificate program that is usually less than a year in duration (there are few associate degree programs in dental assisting, although these programs are generally two years in length).
  • Is offered through vocational/technical schools, dental schools, or junior/community colleges
  • May be offered as distance education (online) programs
  • Culminates in a clinical experience
  • Includes all necessary coursework in dental assisting to work as an entry-level dental assistant in Florida; courses often include:
    • Head, neck, and dental anatomy
    • Dental materials
    • Dental psychology
    • Allied dental theory
    • Radiology
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Dental pharmacology
    • Preventative dentistry

Individuals who did not graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program must take courses for dental assisting expanded functions and dental radiography that are approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry.

Becoming Certified in Expanded Functions

Dental assistants who want to become certified in either expanded functions or as dental radiographers must meet specific eligibility requirements. Certifications are for life, and there are no continuing education requirements.

Dental Assistants Trained in Dental Radiographic Procedures

To legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures in Florida, dental assistants in Florida must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a graduate of a CODA-approved dental assisting school or program

OR

  • Be state-certified as a dental radiographer by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH)

To obtain a FDOH dental radiographer certification, dental assistants must:

  • Complete at least three months of continuous, on-the-job training under the direct supervision of a Florida licensed dentist; AND
  • Complete a Florida Board-approved radiology course within 12 months of completing the on-the-job training; AND
  • Apply to the FDOH for certification

Dental Assistants Trained in Expanded Functions

A dental assistant in Florida may perform basic supportive dental procedures under the supervision of a licensed dentist. However, dental assistants who perform expanded function dental assisting duties must receive formal training by completing one of the following:

  • Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program

OR

  • Complete a Florida-approved expanded duties training program

Note: The DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification was removed as a pathway to becoming an expanded functions dental assistant in Florida, as of May 2009.

Duties not Permitted by Dental Assistants in Florida

There are a number of duties dental assistants in Florida are not permitted to perform, regardless of whether they possess dental radiography or expanded function certification:

  • Gingival curettage and root planning
  • Taking impressions for the purpose of fabricating intraoral restorations or orthodontic appliances
  • Initial access preparation

National Certification for Dental Assistants in Florida

Although Florida does not recognize Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification to perform dental radiography or expanded duties, national certification is nevertheless valuable for dental assistants, particularly for those that work in specialty practices, such as orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, etc.

Certification options through DANB include:

  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant
  • Certified Dental Assistant

Each DANB credential consists of between 2 and 4 component examinations, all of which must be passed to achieve certification. However, the component examinations do not need to be taken at the same time.

DANB certifications are valid for one year, and dental assistants must complete at least 30 continuing education credits to achieve certification renewal.

Additional information on becoming certified through DANB can be found here.

Professional Associations for Dental Assistants in Florida

Active membership in a professional association allows dental assistants in Florida to become familiar with the professional community. This exposure would allow them to enjoy networking, employment, continuing education, and other professional opportunities.

Florida Dental Assistants Association (FDAA):

Local FDAA organizations in Florida include:

  • Broward County Dental Assistants Society
  • Northwest Florida Dental Assistants Society
  • Palm Beach Dental Assistants Society
  • Polk County Dental Assistants Society
  • Sara-Mana Dental Assistants Society

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