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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Connecticut

Dental assistants play a vital role in keeping patients safe and helping dentists provide the best care. Connecticut dental assistants have many duties depending on their position and credentialing. They carry out dental procedures, from checking in and scheduling patients to taking on minor procedures with supervision. The best way to become a Connecticut dental assistant is to start with an approved academic program.

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Levels of Dental Assisting in Connecticut

The Connecticut State Department of Health recognizes two types of dental assistants based on requirements and allowable duties:

  • Dental Assistant. To be a dental assistant, you must be trained, but you are not required to have a specific license or other credentials. They perform basic tasks, like preparing patients, cleaning instruments, and assisting dentists during procedures.
  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant. These dental assistants have more responsibilities and can perform some procedures under supervision. They have completed the requirements to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) and have taken additional coursework. Some of the further tasks you may do in this role are corolla polishing, placing temporary restorations, and applying dental sealants.

Both types of dental assistants may also operate X-rays if they have based the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Radiation Health and Safety Exam. Connecticut dental assistants association with DANB often seek the following credentials:

CDA (Certified Dental Assistant)

EFDA (Expanded Function Dental Assistant)

RDAEFD (Registered Dental Assistant in Expanded Functions – Dentistry)

RDA (Registered Dental Assistant)

How to Become a Connecticut Dental Assistant

There are three acceptable paths to becoming a dental assistant in Connecticut:

  1. Complete on-the-job training by a licensed dentist or dental hygienist.
  2. Complete a dental assistant academic program. It must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  3. Complete a program accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. It must also meet requirements set by the Commissioner of Public Health.

You do not need a degree or certificate to work as a dental assistant, but you do need to find a dentist willing to train you on the job. You will also need to pass the Infection Control Exam from DANB or pass an equivalent exam as part of an accredited academic program.

How to Become an Expanded Function Dental Assistant

To work as an expanded function dental assistant in Connecticut, you must meet these requirements:

  • Pass the exam for the CDA or COA (Certified Orthodontic Assistant) credential from the Dental Assisting National Board.
  • Complete an expanded function dental assistant program accredited by CODA.
  • Pass the DANB exam on certified restorative functions and certified preventative functions.

The expanded function program must include a clinical skills laboratory, ethics and professional standards, and a clinical examination.

As with the first level of dental assisting, you must pass the DANB infection control exam or its equivalent.

Dental Assisting National Board

The DANB offers nationally recognized credentials that may lead to increased job opportunities and higher earnings. Certification also gives dental assistants the ability to transfer their skills more easily to other states. For example, a CDA credential from another state is often accepted in Connecticut. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers multiple exams that dental assistants can take to become certified. The exams most relevant to Connecticut dental assistants are:

The Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) Exam 

You must pass the RHS Exam to operate X-ray machines in Connecticut.

The Infection Control (ICE) Exam

You must pass the ICE Exam to work as a dental assistant in Connecticut.

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam 

To become an expanded function dental assistant, you must pass the CDA Exam.

The Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Exam

If you want to work as an expanded function dental assistant focused on orthodontics, you can take the COA Exam instead of the CDA Exam.

The Certified Preventative Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) Exam

To perform certain preventive functions, like applying sealants, you must pass the CPFDA Exam.

The Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) Exam

To place temporary restorations and perform other restorative functions, you must pass the CRFDA Exam.

You can find more information about the exams offered by the Dental Assisting National Board on their website.

Dental Assistant Schools in Connecticut

Connecticut has two CODA-accredited dental assistant programs:

  • Tunxis Community College, Farmington. This accredited program is affiliated with the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine and uses it to train students. It is a 33-credit certificate program.
  • Manchester Community College, Manchester. This is a certificate program with 34 credits of coursework. It includes an externship for clinical practice.

Penn Foster is an online program that makes it convenient to train to become a dental assistant if a full-time, in-person program doesn’t fit with your schedule. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Both accredited dental assistant programs in Connecticut are certificate programs with 33 or 34 credits. If you can go to school full time, it should take 10 to 12 months to complete coursework. You will need to register for and take the required exams, which could take another couple of months.

Which Type of Dental Assistant Should I Become?

This is an individual choice based on your current situation and future goals. The fastest and least expensive route to this career is to skip the educational program and find a dentist willing to train you.

Earning a certificate or becoming a CDA and expanded function dental assistant takes more time and requires money. However, there are benefits if you can afford to do it:

  • It’s easier to find a job with a certificate and training.
  • You can earn a higher salary in most locations with a credential.
  • Your coursework could count toward a bridge program to becoming a dental hygienist.

If you can’t afford tuition right now, you can always go back to school later. Becoming a dental assistant without a certificate is an excellent place to start.

Career Growth in Dental Assisting Nationwide and in Connecticut

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assisting jobs nationwide are growing at a rate of 7%. This is faster than average job growth and reflects a general trend in all healthcare careers.

The Connecticut Department of Labor reports even higher growth for dental assistants in the state. The agency expects to see 12% growth between 2018 and 2028. This amounts to a projected 550 new positions.

Typical Salaries for Dental Assistants

The median annual salary for dental assistants across the U.S. is $41,180, and the median hourly rate is $19.80. The highest salaries are for dental assistants working for government agencies. The top earners make more than $58,000 per year.

Connecticut reports higher salaries for dental assistants. Here they make $46,188 per year and $22.21 per hour on average.

Opportunities for Dental Assistants in Connecticut

Dental assistants work in dental offices, physician offices, medical centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other residential facilities. They also work for government agencies and community clinics. Here are some examples of recent job listings in the state to give you an idea of the kinds of opportunities to expect:

  • Dental Assistant, LeBlanc Family Dentistry, East Windsor, $18 to $24 per hour
  • Dental Assistant, Kids Dental Care, Bristol, $20 to $25 per hour
  • Dental Assistant, Central Connecticut Oral Maxillofacial and Implant Surgery, West Hartford, $20 to $30 per hour
  • Dental Assistant, Dr. Dental, Bristol, $19 to $29 per hour with a $1,000 sign-on bonus

A career as a dental assistant can be rewarding and lucrative. You’ll also enjoy job stability as healthcare support careers continue to grow. Whether you start with school or on-the-job training, Connecticut has many opportunities for skilled dental assistants.

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