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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Maryland

The Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners (MSBDE) regulates dental assistants in Maryland. There are three levels of dental assistants recognized in the state:

  • Dental assistants – involves performing basic, supportive dental procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist
  • Dental assistants qualified in general duties – also called a Qualified Dental Assistant or General Chairside Assisting, this designation allows the dental assistant to perform expanded functions above and beyond those of the dental assistant
  • Dental assistants qualified in orthodontics – otherwise known as Orthodontic Assistant or Orthodontic Expanded Functions

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Many schools in Maryland offer dental assisting and orthodontic assisting courses to prepare aspiring dental assistants at all levels. Each level carries its own education, experiential and examination requirements.

Becoming a Basic Dental Assistant

The first level of dental assisting in Maryland is called, simply, dental assistant. Dental health professionals who choose this level of dental assisting are not required to meet any state-mandated training or education requirements, unless working in a sealant program.

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If this is the case, the following requirements must be met:

  • Amass 400 hours of dental assisting clinical practice in the care of dental patients
  • Hold American Heart Association Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers or American Red Cross CPR for Professional Rescuers certification
  • Complete a MSBDE-approved six hour course in infection control with OSHA protocol
  • Have a written agreement with the supervising dentist that sets forth the dental assistant’s terms and conditions of practice under that dentist’s supervision

Becoming a Dental Assistant Qualified in General Duties

The next, and most popular, level of dental assisting in Maryland is a Dental Assistant Qualified in General Duties. This position requires current CPR certification. There are two ways in which to obtain this registration:

Option 1: Meet these education and examination requirements:

  • Complete a 35 hour MSBDE-approved training program (a list of such programs may be found here, and are located in cities including Baltimore, Arnold, Westminster, Edgewater, Easton, Essex, LaPlata, Frederick, Hagerstown, Bel Air, Bethesda, Columbia, College Park)

AND

Option 2: Meet these education and examination requirements:

  • Education: one of the following pathways:
    • Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program (as of 2014, there is just one in Maryland, in Hagerstown)OR
    • High school graduate with 3500 hours of approved work experienceOR
    • Former CDA (Certified Dental Assistant) of the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board), or graduate of a CODA-accredited DDS or DMD program, or holder of a dental degree from a foreign university

AND

  • Examination: Pass the DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. This exam includes 320 multiple-choice questions and has three parts:
    • General Chairside Assisting (GC) – 120 multiple-choice questions, 90 minutes
    • Infection Control (ICE) – 100 multiple-choice questions, 75 minutes
    • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) – 100 multiple choice questions, 75 minutes

When any of the DANB exams listed above have been passed, candidates can expect to receive their results by mail in three to four weeks.

After completing the above education/examination requirements, aspiring Dental Assistants Qualified in General Duties in Maryland must apply for certification to the MSDBE via this application. Proof of education must be attached to the application, as well as a notarized recent passport-sized photo. Mail the application to Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners, Spring Grove Hospital Center, Benjamin Rush Building, 55 Wade Avenue/Tulip Drive, Catonsville, MD 21228.

Becoming a Dental Assistant Qualified in Orthodontics

The third level of dental assisting in Maryland is Dental Assistant Qualified in Orthodontics. Again, current CPR certification is necessary for this position. There are two options to obtain this registration:

Option 1: Meet these education and examination requirements:

  • Complete a 35 hour MSBDE-approved training program (a list of such programs may be found here, and includes cities such as Bethesda, Columbia, Bel Air, Hagerstown, Frederick, and Westminster)

AND

Option 2: Meet these education and examination requirements:

  • Education: one of the following pathways:
    • Complete an orthodontic assisting course from a CODA-accredited dental assistant program (just one in Maryland, in Hagerstown), AND hold current CDA certificationOR
    • Complete 3500 hours of approved work experience, AND hold current CDA certification OR RDH or RDA certificationOR
    • High school graduate with 3500 hours of approved work experienceOR
    • Former COA of the DANB, or graduate of a CODA-accredited DDS or DMD program, or holder of a dental degree from a foreign university

AND

  • Examination: Pass the DANB Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Exam. This exam includes 310 multiple-choice questions and includes two parts:
    • Orthodontic Assisting – 210 multiple-choice questions, given 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete
    • Infection Control (ICE) – 100 multiple-choice questions, given 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete

After passing any of the DANB exams listed above, candidates can expect to receive their results by mail in three to four weeks.

Once an applicant has completed the above education/examination requirements, aspiring Dental Assistants Qualified in Orthodontics in Maryland must apply for certification to the MSDBE via this application. Proof of education must be attached to the application, as well as a notarized recent passport-sized photo. Mail the application to Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners, Spring Grove Hospital Center, Benjamin Rush Building, 55 Wade Avenue/Tulip Drive, Catonsville, MD 21228.

Radiography Requirement for All Maryland Dental Assistants

State certification as a dental radiation technologist is required Prior to becoming a dental assistant in Maryland, regardless of the intended level of practice. This certification allows dental assistants to legally perform radiographic dental procedures and operate dental x-ray technology.

In order to receive this certification, an applicant must be 18 years of age or older, of good moral character, have a high school diploma, and meet education and examination requirements as outlined below.

Education for Dental Radiation Technologists – Certification as a dental radiation technologist in Maryland requires completion of a dental radiography course that is approved by the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners. This course must be at least 24 hours in length. A list of approved schools for dental radiology may be found here. These courses are located within schools in the following Maryland cities:

  • Salisbury
  • Towson
  • College Park
  • Bethesda
  • Largo
  • Columbia
  • Bel Air
  • Hagerstown
  • La Plata
  • Easton
  • Edgewater
  • Essex
  • Westminster
  • Arnold
  • Baltimore
  • Cumberland

Examinations for Dental Radiation Technologists – After completing the course, the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners requires applicants to pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) or Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam.

The appropriate exam is dependant on career goals:

  • Basic Dental Assistants must pass the RHS exam only
  • Dental Assistant Qualified in General Duties or Orthodontics complete the CDA exam, which includes the RHS exam

Exams are given at Pearson VUE test centers located in:

  • Salisbury
  • Bethesda
  • Baltimore
  • Columbia

After passing the exam, applicants must submit to the MSBDE a completed certification application form along with proof of having completed a radiology course.

Maintaining Dental Assistant Certification in Maryland

All levels of dental assistant certification must be renewed and maintained in order to remain valid. Below are the methods for maintaining each type of certification available in Maryland:

  • Dental Radiation Technologist – this certification is valid for two years and applies to all dental assistants in Maryland. To maintain this certification, applicants must pay a fee and meet one of these requirements:
    • Provide documentation of actively practicing dental radiation technology for 600 hours within the past six years,

      OR

    • Complete eight classroom hours of dental continuing education, half of which is in radiation safety, within the past year
    • Additionally, all dental radiation technologists must complete a two- hour infection control course approved by the MSBDE

  • Certified Dental Assistant and Certified Orthodontic Assistant – the DANB says that a CDA or COA credential is valid for one year. During that year, a CDA or COA must complete at least 12 continuing education requirements, although the DANB encourages more. Continuing dental education must relate directly to the practice of dental assisting, and should be at least 45 minutes long to qualify for a CDE credit. Online CDE is also acceptable. For more information, consult the DANB Recertification Requirements.

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