The West Virginia Board of Dentistry permits licensed dentists in the State to assign dental assistants intraoral tasks, provided they are performed under the direct supervision of the employing dentist.
The West Virginia Board of Dentistry recognizes two dental assistant designations in the state:
- Dental Assistant: Dental assistants in West Virginia are permitted to perform basic, supportive dental procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. There are no board-mandated education or training requirements for this level of dental assisting in West Virginia.
- Dental Assistants in Expanded Duties: Dental assistants in expanded duties are in high demand given their ability to perform expanded duties that include restorative orthodontic duties, coronal polishing, as well as monitoring of nitrous oxide analgesia administration and sedation procedures. Gaining competency in expanded functions requires specific education and permitting as described below.
Dental Assistant Schools in West Virginia: Education and Training Programs
Preparation for a career in dental assisting in West Virginia is best accomplished through the completion of a dental assisting program. A Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited dental assisting program is usually between 9 and 11 months in duration. In addition to coursework and hands-on experiences, a dental assisting program often includes a clinical externship.
In West Virginia, there is one CODA-accredited dental assistant program, although in nearby Pennsylvania there are 6 CODA-accredited programs and another 5 programs in Ohio. Dental assistant certificate programs may be offered through community or junior colleges, dental schools, and vocational/technical schools.
Although not as common as certificate programs, a few programs offer associate’s degree programs in dental assisting. Further, there are a number of distance education programs for individuals interested in obtaining their education through an online institution.
Education in dental assisting generally does not extend beyond associate-level programs; however, dental assistants often choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, as dental hygienists in a dental team are afforded more professional opportunities for independent practice and are therefore paid more than dental assistants. Dental assistants who want to go on to supervise a dental practice may choose to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in medical or business administration.
Becoming a Dental Assistant Authorized to Perform Expanded Duties in
Restorative and/or Orthodontic Expanded Duties: Dental assistants in West Virginia may qualify to perform specific restorative and/or orthodontic expanded duties, provided they:
- Complete a West Virginia Board of Dentistry-approved course and examination in one of both of the expanded duties; AND
- Complete required clinical experiences under a supervising dentist; AND
- Apply to the Board for a certificate(s)
Coronal Polishing Permit: Dental assistants in West Virginia may qualify for a coronal polishing permit, provided they:
- Complete at least two years (3,000 hours) of clinical experience in a dental office; AND
- Complete an approved restorative duties or orthodontic duties course; AND
- Complete an approved coronal polishing course; AND
- Complete the required clinical experiences under a supervising dentist; AND
- Apply to the Board for a certificate
Visual Monitoring of Nitrous Oxide Analgesia Units: Dental assistants in West Virginia may qualify to perform the visual monitoring of nitrous oxide analgesia units, provided they:
- Complete an approved course and examination the monitoring of nitrous oxide; AND
- Be CPR certified through the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross; AND
- Apply to the Board for a certificate
Qualified Monitor During Sedation Procedures: Dental assistants in West Virginia may qualify to act as a qualified monitor during sedation procedures, provided they:
- Hold a certificate to monitor nitrous oxide from the Board; AND
- Have received training and are competent in the treatment and recognition of medical emergencies, monitoring vital signs, and the operation of nitrous oxide delivery systems; AND
- For analgesia/minimal sedation: Be CPR certified
- For anxiolysis/minimal sedation: Be CPR certified and apply to the Board for a qualified monitor certificate
- For conscious/moderate sedation and deep conscious sedation/ general anesthesia: Be CPR certified; complete an approved anesthesia assistant certificate program; and apply to the Board for a qualified monitor certificate
How to Apply to for Expanded Duty Certificates in West Virginia
In addition to meeting the above requirements to perform expanded duties in West Virginia, dental assistants must apply to the Board, which includes the completion of the following applications:
- Application for Coronal Polishing Certificate
- Must show proof of the completion of at least 2 years (or 3,000 hours) of clinical experience
- Must show proof of the completion of a restorative expanded duties course; OR an orthodontic expanded duties course
- Must show proof of the completion of a coronal polishing course
- Must show proof of the completion of at least 5 clinical competencies
- Application for Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate: $25 application fee
- Must show proof of the completion of at least 2 hours of didactic instruction
- Written examination score with at least 75 percent
- Provide proof of current CPR certification
- Orthodontic Duties: $25 application fee
- Must show proof of the completion of at least 4 hours of didactic experience
- Written exam score
- Clinical experiences: topical chemical conditioning of 6 teeth to accept a restoration and/or bracket; and using a power-driven hand piece with rubber cup and/or brush for preparing 6 teeth for accepting a restoration and/or appliance
- Restorative Duties: $25 application fee
- Must show proof of the completion of at least 6 hours of didactic experience
- Written examination score
- Clinical experiences: the application of topics anti-cariogenic agents for 4 patients’ application of 6 pit and fissure sealants; topical chemical conditioning of 6 teeth to accept a restoration and/or bracket; using a power-driven hand piece with rubber cup and/or brush for preparing 6 teeth; and placing retraction cord for crown impressions for 6 teeth
All applicants must be signed and dated by a supervising dentist.
National Certification Options for Dental Assistants in West Virginia
National certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) may meet the qualifications to practice as an expanded duties dental assistant or to earn additional credentials as a dental assistant in West Virginia.
The DANB, the only certifying body for dental assistants in the U.S., offers four certification options:
- Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)
- Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)
- Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
- Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)
All DANB certifications consist of between 2 and 4 component examinations, all of which must be successfully completed before certification can be earned. Further, all DANB certifications must be renewed on an annual basis upon the completion of at least 30 continuing education credits.
Learn More about Dental Assisting in West Virginia
According to Workforce West Virginia, there were 1,255 dental assistants employed in the state in 2012. Workforce West Virginia projects an annual growth rate of 56 dental assistant jobs.
Workforce West Virginia named dental assistants among its list of High Demand Occupations. High-demand occupations in West Virginia are those occupations where significant annual job openings and growth are expected.
Professional associations serve as excellent resources for the practice of dental assisting in West Virginia:
- West Virginia Board of Dentistry
- West Virginia Dental Hygienists Association
- West Virginia Dental Association