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Dental Assistant

A dental assistant may be trained to aid dentists at the chair side, clean instruments and the work area, and perform laboratory procedures, such as helping in construction of dentures and models of the teeth and mouth. A high school diploma or equivalent, a certificate (program of up to one year of study beyond high school), an Associate Degree (two years of study beyond high school), or on-the-job training by the employer are all pathways to becoming a dental assistant. Click on the links below for more information about dental assisting and choosing the right school for earning your education.

MDA Position Statement on
Dental Assisting Educational Programs

The Michigan Dental Association affirms the need for educated dental assistants and supports those programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation that result in graduates attaining eligibility for state licensure as Registered Dental Assistants (RDA) by the Board of Dentistry of the Michigan Department of Community Health. A list of accredited dental assisting programs in Michigan can be obtained on this Web site. For those who require remote learning, an ADA-accredited training program is offered by Washtenaw Community College.

Students considering careers in dental assisting should be aware that only programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation can result in licensure that allows them to perform expanded duties. Dental Assistants are not required to be licensed in Michigan. On-the-job-training (OJT) provided by the employer may qualify a person for this occupation. However, those allowed to perform expanded functions and to use the title "Registered Dental Assistant" must be licensed by the Board of Dentistry of the Michigan Department of Community Health. Only RDA licensed individuals or those who have completed approved radiography training may take radiographs.

Dental Assistants may also obtain recognition as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) by passing the Dental Assisting National Board. This credential, however, is not recognized in any way by the Michigan State Board of Dentistry and thus no additional procedures can be performed by a CDA beyond those allowed for an OJT assistant.

Although the CDA is not recognized by the State Board of Dentistry, its value is that is shows a tested level of competency. Additionally, assistants with a CDA may be eligible for advanced placement in an ADA-accredited program where they can earn an RDA.

On-the-job-trained assistants and graduates of proprietary programs are eligible to take the CDA exam only after they have worked at least 3,500 hours as a dental assistant over 24 consecutive months (full-time) or between 24 and 48 consecutive months (part-time).

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