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How to Become a Dental Assistant in North Dakota

The North Dakota State Board of Dental Examiners is responsible for protecting the dental health of the citizens of North Dakota through the regulation of the practice of dentistry, dental hygiene, and dental assisting.

The Board of Dental Examiners recognizes three levels of dental assisting in North Dakota:

  • Dental Assistant: May perform basic supportive dental procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist; must hold CPR certification

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  • Qualified Dental Assistant (QDA): QDAs in North Dakota must:
    • Pass the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE) exams before applying (if both exams were completed more than a year ago, applicants must show proof of the completion of at least 16 continuing education hours); AND
    • Complete at least 650 hours of dental assistant instruction, including on the job training; AND
    • Pass a North Dakota jurisprudence examination that assesses the laws and rules regarding the practice of dentistry in North Dakota; AND
    • Maintain CPR certification

  • Registered Dental Assistant (RDA): RDAs in North Dakota must:
    • Pass DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination or complete a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited program or North Dakota Board-approved dental assisting program (if education was completed more than a year ago, applicants must show proof of the completion of at least 16 continuing education hours); AND
    • Pass a North Dakota jurisprudence examination that assesses the laws and rules regarding the practice of dentistry in North Dakota
    • Maintain CPR certification

How to Become a Qualified Dental Assistant (QDA) or Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) in North Dakota

To become a QDA or RDA in North Dakota, candidates must apply for registration to the North Dakota State Board of Dental Examiners by completing the Application for Initial Registration of Dental Assistant and submitting the registration fee of $130 (made payable to the NDSBDE).

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Upon completing an application for registration, candidates must take the North Dakota jurisprudence examination. The examination is mailed to candidates upon receipt of the registration application. Applications for both RDA and QDA are reviewed by the Board’s executive director before they are issued; this process may take up to 10 days.

Individuals applying to become an RDA in North Dakota must submit verification of 16 hours of continuing education if they graduated or passed the CDA examination more than a year ago.

Note: Dental assistants who want to apply pit and fissure sealants in North Dakota must be RDAs and must complete a North Dakota-approved sealant class or course.

Dental Assisting Schools and Programs in North Dakota

Dental assistants who want to become QDAs in North Dakota must complete at least 650 hours of dental assistant instruction, including on-the-job training, while dental assistants applying to become RDAs must either pass the CDA examination or complete a CODA-accredited or Board-approved dental assisting program. As such, one of the most streamlined approaches to becoming a QDA or RDA is through the completion of a dental assisting program.

The North Dakota Workforce Intelligence Network reports that, as of 2013, nearly 63 percent of all dental assistants in the State held a post-secondary certificate in dental assisting. Dental assisting programs are typically less than a year in length (about 10 months, on average) and are offered through a number of institutions, including junior colleges, dental schools, and vocational/technical schools, although the curriculum and hands-on training are decidedly similar. All programs culminate in a clinical experience that provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting.

There are a few associate degree programs in dental assisting in the U.S., although the majority of associate degree programs are designed as dental hygiene programs. Dental hygienists, who are required to possess an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, are permitted to perform a number of functions beyond that of a dental assistant and therefore often earn more and are afforded more professional opportunities.

The sole accrediting body in the United States for dental assistant programs is the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the American Dental Association. There is currently one program accredited by CODA in North Dakota. However, individuals who want to complete a program that is not accredited by CODA may do so, provided the program is recognized by the North Dakota State Board of Dental Examiners.

National Certification Options for Dental Assistants in North Dakota

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is the most widely used certifying body for dental assistants in the U.S., including North Dakota. To become a QDA, dental assistants must take and pass both the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE) exams through DANB, while dental assistants seeking registration to become an RDA in North Dakota may qualify if they have completed DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination.

The RHS and ICE examinations are component examinations of the CDA exam; therefore, to hold the CDA credential, individuals must pass both of these examinations, as well as an examination in Chairside Assisting (CA).

Other examinations offered by DANB, which are often pursued by dental assistants working in specialty dental offices, include:

  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)

All certifications through DANB must be renewed on an annual basis, following the completion of at least 30 continuing education credits. The DALE Foundation, an affiliate of DANB, is one of the largest sources for continuing education in dental assisting.

Resources for Dental Assistants in North Dakota

According to the North Dakota Workforce Intelligence Network, there were 670 dental assistants employed in North Dakota in 2013. The vast majority of dental assistants in North Dakota (95.3 percent) were employed in healthcare or social assistance settings, with the remaining (4.7 percent) employed in government settings.

Dental assistants or new graduates may find that membership in a professional association is the ideal way to learn more about the field of dental assisting, meet contemporaries in their profession, fulfill education requirements, and find employment opportunities:

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