Dental Assistant National Boards

dental assistant national boards

The dental assistant national boards are managed by an organization called the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). The Dental Assisting National Board is the only nationally recognized certification and credentialing organization for dental assistants. The Dental Assisting National Board awards national certification under several designations, including the popular Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential. Becoming a CDA is a voluntary process in which dental assistants demonstrate their professional expertise and commitment to ongoing education in the dental industry.

History of the Dental Assisting National Board

The origin of the Dental Assisting National Board can be traced to 1924 and the founding of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), the first dental assisting membership organization. With its founding, the ADAA worked to develop a national certification to acknowledge the professionalism and expertise of U.S. dental assistants.

In 1948, the ADAA founded the American Dental Assistants Certification Board, Inc., as an affiliate. The organization granted the first dental assistant certifications that year. The American Dental Assistants Certification Board was made a separate organization in 1980 and renamed the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. The ADAA and Dental Assisting National Board exist as individual organizations. Though the groups often work together, they operate independently.

The Dental Assisting National Board was recognized as the official national certification board for dental assistants by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1989.

The Dental Assisting National Board offers national certification to identify those dental assistants who have demonstrated professional knowledge and competency.

What types of exam or credentialing tests does the Dental Assisting National Board offer?

Regulations for working as a dental assistant vary by state. Some states require national certification, while others require licensure and registration to work as a dental assistant. National dental assistant certification serves as a common standard that can be used to demonstrate mastery of professional knowledge.

The exams and certifications of the Dental Assisting National Board are recognized or required in 39 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Air Force. Each national certification consists of a series of component exams that can be taken individually or together. Dental assistants can earn a knowledge-based competency certificate in any one component. All components of an exam must be passed to gain certification.

The Dental Assisting National Board offers the following types of national certifications and component exams:

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

Component Exams:

  • Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP)
  • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
  • Infection Control (ICE)

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Component Exams:

  • General Chairside Assisting (GC)
  • Infection Control (ICE)
  • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)

Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)

Component Exams:

  • Orthodontic Assisting (OA)
  • Infection Control (ICE)

Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)

Component Exams:

  • Coronal Polishing (CP)
  • Sealants (SE)
  • Topical Fluoride (TF)
  • Topical Anesthetic (TA)

Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)

Component Exams:

  • Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP)
  • Impressions (IMP)
  • Temporaries (TMP)
  • Isolation (IS)
  • Sealants (SE)
  • Restorative Functions (RF)

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) designation is the primary certification sought by dental assistants and required by some states. Certification is achieved upon the completion of the three core components of the CDA exam. Some states require that dental assistants pass one or more specific components of the CDA exam for state licensure.

Does the Dental Assisting National Board have specific regulations for dental assistants?

The Dental Assisting National Board requires that all certified dental assistants, along with all examination applicants and candidates, uphold the highest standards of professional ethics and excellence. The organization maintains a code of ethics and professional conduct that defines appropriate behavior of dental assistants in interactions with patients, employers, colleagues, the dental profession, the public and the Dental Assisting National Board.

The Dental Assisting National Board can pursue disciplinary action against certified dental assistants, examination applications or candidates as a result of irregular behavior; fraudulent credentials or eligibility documents; or specific legal, regulatory or credentialing activities. Disciplinary actions by a designated Review Panel can include: fines; designation of conditional status; denial or revocation of certification; or legal action against the offending dental assistant.

What other services does the Dental Assisting National Board provide?

In addition to national certification examinations and designations, the Dental Assisting National Board provides:

  • Credential verification
  • Database of individual state dental assistant licensing requirements
  • National salary surveys
  • Continuing Dental Education (CDE) options for re-certification
  • Networking and employment opportunities


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