How to Become a Dental Assistant in Arkansas: The Route to Certification and Registrtaion

Arkansas distinguishes between Dental Assistants and Registered Dental Assistants. The Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) credential is necessary to carry out various duties, including operation of radiography equipment. A person can earn an Arkansas RDA through any of several pathways, including national certification.

Some duties (nitrous oxide administration and sedation monitoring) require additional credentialing beyond the RDA.

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Becoming a Certified Dental Assistant

An Arkansas dental assistant is required to hold Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification only if he or she will be monitoring sedation (and does not hold a concurrent LPN or RN license). The CDA is, however, one pathway to RDA status. CDA certification has widespread recognition around the nation. Employers may require it even in cases where it is not legally mandated.

A person can achieve eligibility by completing a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Assisting (CODA) or accruing sufficient work experience. A dental assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program will need fully 3,500 hours of experience; high school graduation is also required.

Graduates of foreign dental programs are also eligible (as are graduates of accredited in-state programs.

The individual will need to go through a three-part examination process. He or she will need to successfully complete the following three tests: General Chairside Assisting (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), and Infection Control (ICE). The candidate can attempt the RHC and ICE examinations at any point; in order to take the GC, however, he or she must meet CDA prerequisite requirements.

A CDA applicant will need to provide evidence of CPR, Basic Life Support (BLS), or Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification when applying for GC examination.

The approval process takes several weeks. CDA examinations are administered by Pearson VUE. An approved candidate will be granted a 60-day testing window. A candidate can request another testing window, but additional fees will apply, at least in most instances. Candidate guides can be downloaded from the website of the Dental Assisting National Board (

Becoming a Registered Dental Assistant

There are several pathways to become a Registered Dental Assistant in Arkansas. One can meet eligibility requirements by graduating from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. There are currently two CODA-accredited schools in Arkansas.

A dental assistant can demonstrate current certification as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

A dental assistant can also be certified as Registered Dental Assistant on the basis of on-the-job training provided by an Arkansas dentist, provided that all additional requirements are demonstrated.

According to state law, a person can achieve the RDA credential by completing a course that has specifically been approved by the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners (ASBDE); training must cover the particular expanded functions that the person will be practicing. This is, however, not a current option for all specialties. Individuals seeking initial recognition in radiography or coronal polishing are asked to note whether their training came from a CODA-accredited school or was obtained on the job.

A prospective RDA will need to hold CPR certification at the healthcare provider level. He or she will need to pass the Arkansas jurisprudence exam. The minimum score on the jurisprudence exam is 75%. An applicant will complete it on his or her own time, but must return it during the allotted time.

Nitrous Oxide Administration and Sedation Monitoring Credentials

In order to be permitted to administer nitrous oxide, a dental assistant will need to either complete a course that is approved by the American Dental Association or complete a course through an approved Arkansas provider. The Board of Dental Examiners has provided a list of instructors who are authorized to provide Arkansas nitrous oxide courses; instructors are located in cities throughout Arkansas (

The nitrous oxide permit is a prerequisite for sedation monitoring licensure. In order to obtain the sedation monitoring license, a dental assistant must complete the Dental Anesthesia Assistant National Certification Examination (DAANCE) offered by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS). In order to initiate the certification process, a person must be in a qualifying position, whether employed by a dental professional who holds an anesthesia permit or by a member/ fellow of the AAOMs. The dental assistant will begin by completing a self-study continuing education program. The candidate will then take a computerized examination; the AAOMS notes that the exam iis available at more than 100 sites. Candidate handbooks and registration forms can be downloaded from the AAOMS website (

The Application Process

Prospective RDAs must apply to the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners ( They must verify that they have read applicable laws and regulations at the time of initial application. The application fee is $75.

Dental assistant can submit ‘add-on applications’ with required supplemental materials. Those seeking nitrous oxide certification submit a copy of their certificates; those seeking sedation monitoring, a copy of their DAANCE. They can add on radiography or coronal polishing with the signature of a dentist.

RDAs must complete continuing education in infection control. RDA permits must be renewed every other year.

Additional Information

Registration information is available from the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners. The Board can be reached by telephone at 501-682-2085 or by email at ‘asbde at’. The law is described in Sub-Chapter 4 of the Dental Practice Act.

No credential is required in order to provide the basic dental assistant functions. The Dental Assisting National Board has provided a link to the allowable scope of practice for each level of Arkansas practice ( DANB can also provide information about national certification (