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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Idaho

The US Department of Labor has reported that Idaho is among the top three states in the nation in terms of having the highest concentration of dental assistants jobs. With 2,000 dental assistants employed in the state as of 2012, the overall employment ratio was 3.35 dental assistants for every thousand jobs in the state. In Idaho Falls specifically, the ratio is considerably higher, and the city is counted among the top three metropolitan areas in the nation in terms of its concentration of dental assistant jobs. Here, there were 5.62 dental assistants for every thousand jobs.

The Idaho State Board of Dentistry recognizes both dental assistants and expanded functions dental assistants as having two different job descriptions:

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Dental Assistant – a dental assistant may perform specified activities under direct supervision of a licensed dentist, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures
  • Recording the oral cavity
  • Placement of topical anesthetic agents
  • Removal of excess bonding material
  • Expose and process radiographs
  • Take impressions for preparation of diagnostic models, bleach trays, fabrication of night guards, temporary appliances, or temporary crowns
  • Record diagnostic bite registration
  • Provide patient education and instruction in oral hygiene
  • Placement of arch wire
  • Adjust arch wires, etc.

Expanded Functions Dental Assistant – a dental assistant who is Board-qualified in expanded functions may perform any or all of the expanded functions listed below:

  • Fabrication and placement of temporary crowns,
  • Performance of mechanical polishing of restorations
  • Initiating, regulating, and monitoring the administration of nitrous oxide/oxygen to a patient,
  • Application of pit and fissure sealants,
  • Coronal polishing, and
  • Use of a high-speed handpiece for removal of cement or resin.

Educational Requirements for Dental Assistants in Idaho

Idaho offers both public and proprietary programs in which an assistant may complete dental assisting and expanded functions training. There are six (6) different public programs, as well as five (5) different proprietary programs from which to choose.

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Idaho programs include degree titles including but not limited to the following:

  • Dental Assistant – Technical Certificate (TC)
  • Certified Dental Assisting
  • Dental Assisting

The programs include courses titles including but not limited to the following:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Fundamentals of Nutrition
  • Human Structure and Function
  • Dental Assisting Theory I & II
  • Dental Anatomy and Terminology
  • Dental Radiology
  • Community Dental Health
  • Medical Emergencies
  • Introduction to Dental Hygiene
  • Dental Head and Neck Anatomy
  • Dental Anatomy Embryology and Histology
  • Dental Pharmacology
  • Oral Pathology
  • Periodontics
  • Pain Control Methodology
  • Special Needs Patients
  • Legal and Ethical Issues

Dental Assistant – Idaho does not require basic dental assistants to achieve licensure or certification. However, preference is often given to job candidates with professional credentials, such as an associate’s degree or certificate, Board-approved expanded functions training, or national certification.

Expanded Functions Dental Assistant – A dental assistant may perform expanded functions upon the completion of the following requirements:

  • Completion of a Idaho Board-approved expanded functions training program through a college or vocational school with verification of training evidenced by:
  • Hold a current Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification which is typically earned by completing a dental assistant program at the certificate or associate’s degree level

    OR

  • Successful completion of Board-approved curriculum in the fundamentals of dental assisting through an out-of-state or online post-secondary program

    OR

  • Successfully challenging the Fundamentals of Dental Assisting course by taking the expanded functions competency exam and passing with an 85% or higher
  • Successful completion of a Board-approved competency exam in each of the expanded functions. Students must pass with an 85% or higher, and are only allowed two didactic examination retakes and one clinical procedure examination retake before retaking the entire course.

After completion of the training, the public or proprietary program will issue a certification of completion, which authorizes the assistant to perform expanded duties in Idaho.

An assistant who has completed out-of-state or non-Board approved courses may submit evidence of the training to the Board, who will decide if the training is equivalent to other Board-approved curriculum. If so, the Board will consider the assistant qualified to perform any expanded function(s).

After completing expanded functions training, a dental assistant in Idaho is eligible for jobs with such titles as business office assistant, chair side assistant, sterilization assistant, or dental assisting careers in general dentistry, periodontics, orthodontics, pediodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, or public health dentistry.

Dental Assisting National Board Certification Options

Dental assistants who choose to complete Idaho Board-approved expanded functions training through pursuing DANB certification may choose among the four certifications offered:

The most common certification for dental assistants is the CDA certification. To pursue the DANB CDA certification, an applicant must follow three steps:

Step 1. Check Eligibility

Option 1 – Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting or dental hygiene program AND hold a current CPR certification from a Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)-accepted provider

Option 2 – Hold a high school diploma or equivalent AND have a minimum of 3,500 hours of approved work experience AND hold a current CPR certification from a DANB-accepted provider

Option 3 – Have previous DANB CDA status, or be a graduate of a CODA-accredited DDS or DMD program, or be a graduate from a dental degree program outside the U.S. or Canada AND hold a CPR certification from a DANB-accepted provider

Step 2. Complete the Application and submit the $375 fee

Step 3. Receive DANB Test Admission Notice three to four weeks after applying and check for errors, report any errors to DANB at 1-800-367-3262, and schedule the exam at a Pearson VUE test center within the 60-day window listed on the notice.

The CDA Exam consists of three component exams, which an applicant may take separately within a five-year period, or as part of the full CDA test:

Pearson Professional Test Centers are located in the following two Idaho cities:

  • Boise, Idaho
  • Twin Falls, Idaho (College of Southern Idaho)

If needed, an applicant can re-schedule a testing appointment up to 24 hours before the scheduled exam at no additional fee.

Within three to four weeks after taking and passing the exam, DANB will mail the assistant exam results and certification, which is valid for one year.

Renewing the DANB CDA certification requires completing 12 Continuing Dental Education (CDE) credits annually and renewing online.

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