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Dental Assistant Requirements in Texas: The paths to become a Dental Assistant in Texas

Texas, like most states, allows individual dentists to set minimum requirements for dental assistants who perform only the most basic duties. Dental assistants who take and expose radiographs, however, must be credentialed as Registered Dental Assistants, or RDAs. Those who perform advance intra-oral procedures or monitor patients who have had nitrous oxide must also apply for certificates from the state.

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Registered Dental Assistant Requirements in Texas

There are two pathways to becoming an RDA in Texas: a state-specific pathway and a national certification pathway. The prospective RDA must in all cases hold BLS certification.

A dental assistant who is not nationally certified must pass a course that is approved by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE). The Board notes that courses taken in other states are not recognized in Texas. A person who is working as a dental assistant but does not have x-ray experience may work under supervision for up to a year before meeting requirements.

Radiography courses are brief: typically eight to sixteen hours in length. The Board has provided a list (http://www.tsbde.texas.gov/RDA.html).

National certification is granted by the Dental Assisting National Board. Certification is based on a combination of 1) examination and 2) education or experience. A qualifying education is one that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. CODA-accredited programs may result in certificates or associate degrees. Dental assistants who do not complete CODA-accredited programs are eligible after two years of experience (provided that they have accrued at least 3,500 qualifying hours).

The CDA examination includes three component exams: Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Infection Control (ICE), and General Chairside Assisting (GC). A candidate can begin the examination process before meeting prerequisite requirements but must wait to take the GC. Candidate guides can be downloaded from the DANB website (http://www.danb.org/Become-Certified/Exams-and-Certifications/CDA.aspx).

An individual who qualifies based on national certification will need to pass a state jurisprudence examination.

The RDA Application Process

Prospective RDAs can initiate the application process online. However, they will need to mail a number of documents, including a printout of the application and application payment receipt. The application form is also available for download (http://www.tsbde.texas.gov/RDA.html).

The Board will require a copy of the applicant’s social security card.

The applicant must perform self-queries through the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the American Association of Dental Boards (AADB) Clearinghouse; these are to be submitted to the Board in their original sealed envelopes.

The Board will require a copy of the course completion certificate. The applicant will also submit a copy of his or her national certification card (if applicable).

The application fee is $36. Application fees are waived for military applicants (including veterans and active duty spouses).

An approved applicant will receive instructions for paying the initial credentialing fee and activating the credential.

Expanded Function Certificates

TSBDE issues three expanded function certificates: pit and fissure sealants, coronal polishing, and nitrous oxide monitoring.

In order to achieve nitrous oxide monitoring certification, a dental assistant must be trained in Basic Life Support; the course must require students to demonstrate skills on a manikin. The candidate must also have eight hours of related training and testing through a Board-approved CODA-accredited school. The Board has provided a list of courses (http://www.tsbde.texas.gov/node/138.html). Dental assistants who completed CODA-accredited courses located outside Texas will need to complete the Texas jurisprudence exam.

Coronal polishing and pit and fissure sealant certifications are issued only to dental assistants who have at least two years of experience.

In order to qualify in pit and fissure sealants, a dental assistant must complete an eight-hour Board-approved course. He or she must be qualified in Basic Life Support.

In order to be qualified in coronal polishing, a dental assistant will need to complete a course through a CODA-accredited, Board-approved program or achieve coronal polishing certification through the Dental Assisting National Board. Coursework may be taken as part of a dental assisting program or as a stand-alone eight hour course.

DANB Coronal Polishing (CP) candidate information can be found on the DANB website (http://www.danb.org/Become-Certified/Exams-and-Certifications/CP-Exam.aspx). Examinations are computer-delivered. The fee is $225.

A candidate who qualifies based on completion of a dental assisting program or successful completion of the DANB examination will also need to pass a jurisprudence examination.

The Expanded Function Application Process

Application forms can be downloaded from relevant sections of the Board website:

Applicants are directed to include copies of the certificates of completion from their TSBDE-approved courses.

Coronal polishing and pit and fissure applicants will need to submit letters from their supervising dentist, verifying that they have the requisite experience.

A coronal polishing, nitrous oxide, or pit and fissure sealant candidate will need to have both a NPDB self-query and an AADB Clearinghouse self-query. Dental assistants who submit multiple certificate applications together need submit only one copy of each required report.

Applications require notarization.

Certificate Renewal Requirements

Certificates are renewed annually. The length of the initial certification period will vary.

Continuing education requirements depend on the number of certificates held. A dental assistant who holds two or more certificates is responsible for completing 12 continuing education hours during each one-year renewal period.

Additional Resources

Information is available from the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (http://www.tsbde.texas.gov). Permitted duties are delineated in state administrative code (http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4&ti=22&pt=5&ch=114&rl=Y). The Board can be reached by telephone at 512-463-6400 or by email at ‘information at tsbde.texas.gov’.

The Texas Dental Assistants Association is the state professional organization (http://tdaa.org/). TDAA has provided a list of questions and answers about the registration process.