Dental Assistant FAQ

Does becoming a dental assistant interest you? Dental assistants often have characteristics that include comfort working with their hands, strong communication skills, and a sense of responsibility. The specific duties of dental assistants are varied and involve clinical and clerical tasks. If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, read on to learn more about working in this field.

What are the different job responsibilities for a dental assistant vs dental hygienist?


What is the difference between a registered dental assistant vs a certified dental assistant?

The differences between registered dental assistants (RDA) and certified dental assistants (CDA) are the levels of certifications and tests they are required to take. This often varies by state. A CDA is usually certified to work in any state, but it’s important to verify with a potential employer.

Do dental assistants clean teeth?

Depending on the state in which a dental assistant is working, he or she may polish teeth, apply sealant, fluoride, or topical anesthetic. A dental assistant may assist a dentist with cleaning, but does not perform teeth cleaning.

How can a dental assistant get an x-ray license?

Most dental assistants will take x-rays as a part of their job in a dentist’s office, which may be learned from dental assistant programs that teach radiology as part of dental assistant coursework. In some states, the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) assessment is recognized or required for dental assistants. This assessment will insure that a dental assistant understands the necessary skills to take x-rays.

The Dental Assisting Program at Delta Technical College (Delta Tech) teaches students to take x-rays – additional education is not required to sit for exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Can a dental assistant scale teeth?

Scaling teeth involves removing tartar and plaque from below the gumline and is not in the scope of practice for dental assistants. Dental assistants do not perform scaling – only dentists and hygienists perform this procedure.

Do dental assistants help with oral surgery?

Dental assistants can choose to specialize in oral surgery and become oral surgeon assistants. The role of an oral surgery assistant includes acting as another set of hands during surgery, preparing all the necessary equipment and helping patients understand their dental procedures before and after.

What are the job duties of a dental assistant in the military?

A dental assistant in the Army is called a dental specialist. In the Air Force and Navy they are referred to as dental assistants. Typically, training to become a dental assistant will take an additional 8 weeks after a recruit completes 8-10 weeks of basic training in the military. This will vary among branches of the military.

The skills learned in Advanced Individual Training may include preventative dentistry, dental office procedures, x-ray techniques, dental hygiene procedures. The job duties of a dental specialist in the military are not usually different than those duties in the civilian world, including assisting the dentist and office tasks.

Do dental assistants have background checks? 

There are questions related to background information on various forms required by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). These questions must be answered and there could be follow up if the answer indicates past criminal behavior. Policies may vary from state to state, but 39 states recognize or require DANB certification. Although background checks may be a part of the hiring process, it is up to the employer.

Beginning Your Career as a Dental Assistant Starts With The Right Training

Beginning your career as a dental assistant can start with choosing the right training program for you. If you have questions about the Delta Technical College Dental Assisting Program, please contact the Admissions Team.