As we’ve discussed in previous articles, proper professional certification can have a positive impact on the dental assistant salary and additionally, it can open up a more broad landscape of career opportunities for an aspiring dental assistant. However, working toward certification as a CDA, or certified dental assistant, begins with the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) CDA exam. Understanding the nature of this exam as well as how to properly prepare for it is critical in successfully earning your certification. These exams are currently either recognized or required in 38 U.S. states.
About the DANB CDA Exam
Currently, the DANB exam for Certified Dental Assistants consists of three major components: radiation and health safety (RHS), infection control (IC), and the general chairside (GC) portion of the test. These are actually administered as three separate examinations, therefore it is important to understand the material covered under each module.
The radiation and health safety exam will cover topics relating to a critical component of preparing for a successful career as a dental assistant, radiology and x-ray techniques and safety. At this time, this module consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and will allow the practicing dental assistant to hold certification that allows them to conduct radiological screening of a patient. There are no prerequisites for this module of the CDA exam, so applicants must simply apply to sit for this test.
The infection control exam is the second major component of the CDA examination and is also formatted as 100 multiple-choice questions. Again, no prerequisites are required to apply to sit for this test. As the title implies, this exam will cover health, safety, and laboratory techniques that relate to the prevention of infectious diseases.
The final component of the DANB CDA exam is the general chairside test. To apply for this 120 multiple-choice formatted exam, an applicant must provide supporting documentation that they have completed one of the three “eligibility pathways”. Currently, these three eligibility pathways are as follows:
- Graduation from a Commission on Dental Accreditation approved dental assisting program and a current CPR certification from a DANB approved provider
- A high school diploma or the equivalent, 3,500 working experience hours as a dental assistant within the previous two years for full-time employees and four years for part-time employees, and a current CPR certification from a DANB approved provider
- Proof of status as a current or former DANB Certified Dental Assistant along with a current CPR certification from a DANB approved provider
Preparing for the Exam
Once you have attained eligibility to apply for the entire CDA exam, you can begin to prepare for the test. Currently, DANB offers a number of excellent study guides for the test through their web site. These can be downloaded and use to develop a framework for your studies leading up to the exam. You may also want to research and consider a number of the available third-party test preparation packages which often include a number of multimedia materials which can aid in reinforcing the topics which will be covered on the exam.
If you’re serious about making the most of your career as a dental assistant and earning the best dental assistant salary possible, consider professional certification through the DANB even if your state does not require it.