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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Florida: Two routes and what you will need to do

Florida recognizes two levels of dental assistant. A dental assistant at the lower level can carry out only duties considered “basic” and “supportive”. An Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) can carry out other remediable tasks. The lower level can be achieved through on-the-job training carried out by a licensed Florida dentist; the higher requires formal education.

Florida has also set specific requirements for radiography and nitrous oxide administration. These may all be included in the initial education program.

Select a Florida Dental Assistant Topic:

Qualifying to Carry Out Expanded Functions (EFDA)

A person can be authorized for expanded functions after completing training in the expanded function through a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or is explicitly approved by the Florida Board. The CODA-accredited program may be dental assisting, dental hygiene, or dentistry. The expectation is that the function will have been included as part of the regular curriculum.

Florida boasts more than 20 CODA-accredited dental assistant programs (http://www.danb.org/en/The-Dental-Community/Dental-Assistants/Dental-Assisting-Programs/CODA-Accredited-Dental-Assisting-Programs.aspx). Settings include community colleges, state colleges, and technical colleges, among others. Dental sciences, infection control, and chairside assisting are among the curricular components. A student will have the opportunity to get a good deal of hands-on practice. The experience will include 300 externship hours.

A dental assistant can also qualify by completing a course that is explicitly approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry to cover the function sought. A list of Florida-approved EFDA courses can be found in the "helpful links" section of the Board of Dentistry website (http://floridasdentistry.gov/resources/). Programs are noted as being “expanded duty/ radiology” as they meet multiple state requirements. The list includes a number of options that are not CODA-accredited. In addition to listing active, approved programs, the document lists programs that have recently closed.

Florida no longer accepts Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification as a pathway to expanded functions qualification, though some dental assistants have been grandfathered on the basis of this certification. Out-of-state licensure, moreover, is not accepted for reciprocity. Only a person who has graduated from a program with the recognized accreditation or approval is qualified to work as an EFDA in Florida without receiving further training.

Many employers do specify “EFDA certification”. The Florida Dental Association notes that while an EFDA license is not issued, the supervising licensee is responsible for displaying the qualifying certificate.

Qualifying to Administer Nitrous Oxide

A dental assistant who will be administering nitrous oxide (an analgesic) will need two days of training that covers content equivalent to that described in the American Dental Association (ADA) “Guidelines for Teaching and Comprehensive Control of Pain and Anxiety in Dentistry”.

In this instance, the dental assistant will also need a basic life support course through the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or equivalent organization (http://www.danb.org/Meet-State-Requirements/State-Specific-Information/Florida.aspx). The course will include one- and two-person CPR, obstructed airway, infant resuscitation, and AED (or defibrillator and electrocardiography). The dental assistant will need a BLS update at least every two years.

Qualifying to Take X-Rays

An individual can be qualified to use radiography on the basis of course completion or certification as a radiographer by the Florida Board of Dentistry. Coursework can be obtained through a program with CODA accreditation (or other recognized accreditation). It can also be obtained through a program directly approved by the Florida Board. Courses designed for dental assistants and dental hygienists are acceptable.

The prerequisite requirement for radiographer certification can be met through three months of on-the-job training. A Florida licensed dentist must provide direct supervision. The experience will include positioning and exposing images and positioning digital radiography sensors. Requirements are described in Rule Chapter 64B5-9.011. The person will need to complete an approved course within twelve months of completing the on-the-job component. The course will include components identified in the rule chapter. Among them are radiographic anatomy, intra-oral techniques, dental radiography equipment, and radiation safety and health. The individual can expect to do some practice with mannequins. Certification information is available on the website of the Board of Dentistry (http://floridasdentistry.gov/licensing/dental-radiographer). The application can be submitted online (http://www.flhealthsource.gov/mqa-services). There is a $35 nonrefundable application fee; this applies only to the dental radiographer license.

The Florida Board has stated that radiographer certification is not required of a dental assistant who received his or her radiography instruction through an expanded function educational program (http://floridasdentistry.gov/dental-assistantexpanded-duties-faqs/).

Additional Information

Information about Florida dental assistant requirements is available from the Florida Board of Dentistry (http://floridasdentistry.gov/). The Customer Contact Center can be reached at (850) 488-0595. Interested individuals can subscribe to receive Board updates via email (http://floridasdentistry.gov/resources/).

The Dental Assisting National Board has provided an interpretation of allowable duties (http://www.danb.org/en/Meet-State-Requirements/State-Specific-Information/Florida.aspx).

The Florida Dental Assistants Association is an additional professional resource (http://www.fdaausa.org/). Dental assistants will find information about volunteer opportunities on the FDAA website. The FDAA has resources for students as well as practitioners (http://www.fdaausa.org/fdaa-student-news.html). Students can participate in a table clinic competition.

Florida employers sometimes note a preference for candidates with experience in using particular software applications, for example, Open Dental or Dentrix.