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How to Become a Dental Assistant in New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development named dental assistants as one of the state’s “in-demand occupations” in 2011, with a workforce of 9,400 and projections showing that 340 dental assistant jobs will become available by 2016.

The New Jersey State Board of Dentistry licenses and regulates dentistry and its related professions, including registered dental assistants.

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There are two levels of dental assisting in New Jersey:

  • Unregistered Dental Assistant: An unregistered dental assistant who can perform specific duties under the supervision of a licensed dentist and has no state-mandated education or training requirements.
  • Registered Dental Assistant: Registered dental assistants who perform expanded functions in New Jersey must be licensed by the State Board of Dentistry as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA).

New Jersey’s Dental Assisting Schools

The most streamlined approach to licensure as a dental assistant in New Jersey is through the completion of a program recognized by the Commission on Dental Assisting Accreditation (CODA), the sole accrediting body for dental assisting programs in the U.S.

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Dental assisting programs are most often certificate programs, which are offered through junior colleges, dental schools, and vocational/technical schools, are generally less than one year in length. These programs include all coursework and clinical externships necessary to work as an entry-level dental assistant in New Jersey.

There are currently 6 CODA-accredited programs in New Jersey. A number of online institutions offer CODA-accredited dental assisting programs, as well.

The curriculum in a New Jersey dental assisting program often includes study in the following:

  • Chairside assisting
  • Handling dental emergencies
  • Identifying structures of the oral cavity
  • Preventative dentistry

Dental assistants who want to further their careers may choose to continue their education and pursue an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Dental hygienists are licensed dental professionals who are permitted to perform a number of dental functions without the supervision of a dentist, including coronal polishing. Dental assistants may also choose to pursue an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in medical administration or business administration as to work toward a supervisory position within a dental office.

How to Become a Registered Dental Assistant in New Jersey

Candidates in New Jersey may become licensed as a registered dental assistant if they successfully complete the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination or Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and possess at least ONE of the following:

  • Complete an educational dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Assisting Accreditation (CODA) within the last 10 years

OR

  • Possess at least 2 years of work experience as a dental assistant within the last 5 years; AND complete a Board-approved program in expanded functions and pass the New Jersey Expanded Functions examination administered by DANB

OR

  • Possess at least 2 years of work experience as a dental assistant within the last 5 years and pass the New Jersey Expanded Functions examination administered by DANB

In addition to a completed Application for Dental Assistant License, candidates must:

  • Take and pass the New Jersey jurisprudence examination (information is enclosed with application packet)
  • Complete and return the Certification and Authorization form for a Criminal History Background Check. (Instructions are provided in a follow-up letter once the application for licensure has been received and processed.)
  • Enclose an application fee of $35 (made payable to the State of New Jersey)
  • Enclose one passport-size photograph

All materials, including supporting documentation, must be signed and sealed by a notary public and mailed to:

New Jersey Board of Dentistry
P.O. Box 45005
124 Halsey Street
Newark, NJ 07101

Taking the Examinations Required for Licensure

DANB Certification Examinations

Dental assistants who have completed a CODA-accredited dental assisting program and want to become licensed in New Jersey must take and pass one of the following Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) examinations:

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination consists of three, separate component examinations, which include:

  • General Chairside Assisting
  • Infection Control
  • Radiation Health and Safety

The Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) examination consists of two, separate component examinations, which include:

  • Orthodontic Assisting
  • Infection Control

Information on preparing for and taking the above DANB examinations can be found here. Both the CDA and the COA credential must be renewed annually upon the completion of at least 30 continuing education credits.

New Jersey Expanded Functions Examination

Dental assistants who qualify for registration through experience must take and pass the New Jersey Expanded Functions examination, which is administered by DANB. Content areas within the Expanded Functions examination include:

  • Isolating the operative field
  • Placing and removing matrices and wedges
  • Placing temporary restorations
  • Removing excess cement
  • Removing sutures
  • Fabricating and cementing temporary crowns and bridges
  • Etching in preparation for sealants and bonding
  • Performing hand removal of crowns and bridges
  • Taking impressions
  • Placing amalgam, composite, or gold foil in a tooth
  • Placing and removing retraction cords
  • Placing and removing periodontal dressings
  • Preparing coronal surfaces for bonding and restoration
  • Application of fluoride, pit and fissure sealants and other topical agents

Requirements for Operating X-Ray Equipment and Performing Dental Radiographic Procedures

Dental assistants in New Jersey must be licensed as a Dental Radiologic Technologist (DRT) by the New Jersey Radiologic Technology Board of Examiners to legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures.

To obtain the DRT license in New Jersey, dental assistants must:

  • Pass the DANB Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam (part of the CDA credential); OR
  • Hold a current CDA credential and complete a Board-approved dental radiography course; AND
  • Successfully complete a New Jersey State-approved dental radiography course or its equivalent (a list of approved programs can be found here)

Apply for licensure to the State of New Jersey Bureau of X-Ray Compliance. Dental assistants can learn more by contacting the Bureau of X-Ray Compliance at 609-984-5634 or at arthur.robinson@dep.nj.gov.

Resources for Dental Assistants in New Jersey

There are a number of useful resources for dental assistants in New Jersey, including:

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