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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Montana

In Montana, dental assistants are referred to as dental auxiliaries, and are permitted to perform fundamental, supportive dental procedures under a licensed dentist’s direct supervision as specified in the state’s Dental Practice Act.

If a dental auxiliary wishes to operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures in Montana, additional requirements must be met.

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Becoming a Dental Auxiliary in Montana

Dental Auxiliaries – These dental health professions are permitted to assist licensed dentists under their direct supervision with basic supportive procedures.

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There are three ways to qualify to become a dental auxiliary in Montana:

OR

  • Receive instruction and training in dental assisting from a licensed Montana dentist

OR

  • Receive instruction and training in a Board-approved continuing education course

Dental Auxiliaries that Can Operate Dental Radiographic Equipment Dental auxiliaries in Montana who wish to be able to operate dental radiographic equipment must fulfill additional requirements. As many employers of dental auxiliaries in Montana seek this capability in prospective dental auxiliaries, it is a good idea to complete these requirements. Four pathways lead to becoming a dental assistant proficient in dental x-rays in Montana:

  • Pathway 1: Graduate from a dental assisting education program that is accredited by CODA (located in Great Falls and Pablo in MT)
  • Pathway 2: Hold a certificate in dental radiography from another state
  • Pathway 3: Hold a certificate in dental radiography from the U.S. military
  • Pathway 4: Complete the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)’s Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam. This involves:

    • Completing the application
    • Submitting the $175 fee (payable via check, money order to DANB)
    • Scheduling and taking the exam at a Pearson Vue Testing Center. In Montana, they are located in:

      • Billings
      • Helena
      • Missoula
    • Prepare for the exam using the DANB RHS Exam Blueprint. The RHS Exam covers:

      • Exposure and evaluation
      • Conventional film processing
      • Mounting and labeling
      • Radiation safety-patient
      • Radiation safety- operator/staff

Consider Earning Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Certification

Although not mandatory in the state of Montana, some dental assistants decide to pursue national Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification through the DANB. If a Montana dental assistant wishes to operate radiographic equipment, the RHS exam is one part of the CDA exam, so many dental assistants opt to go on to take the other two parts of the exam and earn national CDA certification. All CDAs must first hold current, valid CPR certification from a DANB-approved provider. Requirements to become a CDA are as follows:

Step 1: Fulfill Educational Requirements

  • Option 1: Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program (located in Great Falls and Pablo in Montana)
  • Option 2: Graduate from high school or obtain a GED AND complete 3500 hours of approved work experience
  • Option 3: Held a CDA in the past, or graduated from a CODA-accredited DMD/DDS preparation program, or graduated from a dental degree program in another country

Step 2: Pass the DANB’s CDA Exam, which is in three parts:

  • General Chairside Assisting: 120 multiple-choice questions
  • Radiation Health and Safety: 100 multiple- choice questions
  • Infection Control: 100 multiple-choice questions
  • The CDA Exam is administered at Pearson Vue testing centers. In Montana, they are located in:
    • Billings
    • Helena
    • Missoula

Maintaining Dental Assistant Certification

For Montana dental assistants who earn CDA certification, the DANB requires renewal of that credential every two years. Additionally, all CDAs must complete a minimum of 12 continuing dental education credits annually. All CDE credits must be related to the practice of dental assisting in order to be counted. The following amounts and types of CDE are allowed by the DANB:

  • Clinical Practice – a maximum of 12 CDEs during every biennial certification period
  • DANB and other dental- related exams – a maximum of 12 CDEs during every biennial certification period
  • Dental Office Management – a maximum of 3 CDEs during every biennial period
  • Volunteer service or scholarly activity – a maximum of 3 CDEs during every biennial certification period

All CDE programs must be at least 45 minutes long to count for credit. CDEs may be earned entirely online.

Montana does not require dental auxiliaries to complete continuing education to maintain their positions.

Working as a Dental Assistant in Montana

Dental assistants are necessary all across the state of Montana, but particularly in the state’s larger cities. When searching for dental assistant jobs in Montana, candidates are likely to find the majority of the jobs will be found in the following cities or metropolitan areas:

  • Billings
  • Bozeman
  • Great Falls
  • Kalispell
  • Helena
  • Havre
  • Butte
  • Missoula
  • Libby
  • Cut Bank

Because the scope of functions for dental assistants/auxiliaries in Montana is fairly broad, it may be helpful to specify what functions dental assistants are prohibited from performing in the state. Prohibited duties for dental assistants in Montana include:

  • Prescribing drugs
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Placing, carving or condensing permanent restorations
  • Taking final impressions
  • Cutting hard or soft tissue or extractions of teeth
  • Bonding or cementing orthodontic brackets or appliances
  • Bonding or cementing a fixed prosthesis, including veneers
  • Administering or dispensing drugs
  • Periodontal probing
  • Placing secular medicinal or therapeutic materials
  • Air polishing
  • Prophylaxis

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