How to Become a Dental Assistant in California

How to Become a Dental Assistant in California

The process of becoming a dental assistant in California is fairly straightforward. There are different types of dental assistants you can be, including an unlicensed dental assistant, registered dental assistant, registered dental assistant in extended functions, and of course the nationally certified dental assistant. Here’s how to become a dental assistant in California, with some dental assistant salary figures to survey as well.

Dental Assistant Salary in California

Unlicensed Dental Assistant

how to become a dental assistant in californiaAn unlicensed dental assistant is your most basic form of dental assisting and enables you to perform basic supportive dental procedures under the supervision of a licensed dentist. You can view all allowed functions here. In order to become an unlicensed dental assistant you must maintain Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

Unlicensed dental assistants who maintain continuous employment for more than 120 consecutive day must complete the all of the following within 1 year from date of employment:

1. Complete a course approved by the California Dental Board (CDB) that adheres to the California Dental Practice Act, AND

2. Complete course in infection control approved by the CDB, AND

3. Complete a course approved in BLS which includes hands on simulated clinical scenarios approved by either the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross

Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)

To take a step up from an unlicensed dental assistant is to become a registered dental assistant. To do so, you must:

1. Complete a California Board approved RDA program OR complete 15 months of on-the-job training as a dental assistant, AND

2. Complete courses in radiation safety and coronal polishing, AND

3. Complete courses in the California Dental Practice Act and infection control within 5 years of application, AND

4. Complete a course in Basic Life Support approved by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross, AND

5. Pass a state written and practical test, AND

6. Pass a state written test in law and ethics, AND

7. Apply to the Dental Board of California for a license as a Registered Dental Assistant

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Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions

To be able to perform additional duties under the supervision of a licensed dentist you will have to become licensed as a Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF). To do so you must:

1. Already have a license as a RDA OR obtain a RDA license, AND

2. Complete a Board approved course in pit and fissure sealants, AND

3. Complete an extended functions program approved by the California Board, AND

4. Pass a California Board exam as well as a state exam, AND

5. Apply to the Dental Board of California for a license as a registered dental assistant in extended functions

How to Become a Certified Dental Assistant in California

To become a certified dental assistant in California there are a few steps you will have to complete. They are as follows:

1. Graduate from an CODA accredited dental assisting program; usually dental assisting programs can be found at technical and community colleges. There are over 20 programs in California, which you can view here. These programs usually run from 9 to 12 months, AND

2. Obtain CPR certification from a DANB accepted provider, AND

3. After completing the CODA accredited program you can then apply for and take the DANB CDA examination, which will grant you CDA status upon passing

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Radiography Requirements

The state of California requires dental assistants to meet radiography requirements if they are to operate dental x-ray equipment and perform radiography procedures. To meet the requirements you will have to:

1. Complete a radiation safety course approved by the California Board of Dental Examiners OR pass a radiation safety exam approved by the Dental Board of California, AND

2. Submit a copy of completion to the Dental Board of California

Dental Assisting Schools in California

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  • Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
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San Joaquin Valley College is an accredited private junior college committed to the professional success of its students and graduates.
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Choosing a school and a new career path can be a very overwhelming process. Here at NCC we understand the importance of education, and that the healthcare industry is in constant need of trained professionals. Our short term allied health programs will give you the skills and the knowledge to become a part of the exciting healthcare field. In addition to providing career training, we offer our graduates employment assistance. At NCC you are not just a student; you are part of a community that includes faculty with industry specific experience and administrators committed to education, and your success in your career objectives.


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Get your career started with Intercoast Colleges. We offer a number of certificate programs in a variety of fields, including medical, allied health, massage therapy, nursing, and electrical training.


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Turn your talents into a career. Nationally recognized and accredited Platt College offers degree programs in Graphic Design, Multimedia, IT Networking and Paralegal.


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Give your career a boost with an education from Mayfield College. Our academic programs include medical front office, computer support technician, and general office management.


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Locations: Cathedral City

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Unitek College™ is a privately held vocational school dedicated to helping you gain the skills needed to advance your career or begin a brand new career. Your training at Unitek College will position you to take advantage of the rising demand for experts in allied health, nursing, and technology professions. Our programs include Medical Assisting, Pharmacy Technician, Dental Assisting, Vocational Nursing, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing: RN-to-BSN Degree Completion.


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