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Becoming a Dental Assistant in Mississippi

Getting started as a dental assistant in Mississippi does not require formal education. However, many employers look for dental assistants who can operate x-ray machines, which does require training.

The good news is that this can be completed while working, so you can get started in the field right away. All dental assistants in Mississippi must be certified in CPR to practice as per the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners. This certification must be kept up to date every year.

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The good news is that this can be completed while working, so you can get started in the field right away. All dental assistants in Mississippi must be certified in CPR to practice as per the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners. This certification must be kept up to date every year.

Basic level dental assistants who have obtained are allowed to perform the following tasks:

  • Greeting and preparing patients for their appointment
  • Sterilizing and maintaining dental tools
  • Discussing oral health practices with patient
  • Performing chairside assistance during procedures
  • Fabricating, placing, and removing temporary restorations
  • Removing sutures
  • Taking impressions for models
  • Placing and removing rubber dams
  • Exposing radiographs
  • Taking on administrative duties

Dental assistants who have obtained their radiographic permit may operate x-ray machines and expose radiographs.

Obtaining a Radiographic Permit

Although not explicitly required, many employers look for dental assistants who possess a radiographic permit.

Candidates wishing to obtain their permit must choose and complete one of the following pathways:

  1. Graduate from a dental assisting program that has been approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation within 12 months of applying for your permit
  2. Graduate from a dental assisting program that has been approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation more than 12 months from applying with sworn testimony from a previous employer of having assisted in taking dental x-rays during the five years preceding application.
  3. Complete a board-approved radiology seminar and exam within 90 days of applying for the permit
  4. Complete the requirements to obtain your Certified Dental Assisting Credential through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

Radiology seminars take place several times a year, and 14 institutions across the state offer board-approved programs. A list of those programs can be found here.

Once one of these requirements has been fulfilled, the candidate must apply for their permit through the Mississippi State Board. Applications cost $60 and must include the following information:

  • A current color passport photo
  • Official transcript from the dental assisting program (if applicable)
  • Sworn testimony from a previous employer regarding radiographic experience (if applicable)
  • Copy of DANB CDA certification (if applicable)
  • Copy of board-approved radiology seminar certificate (if applicable)
  • Check or money or for $60 payable to the Mississippi Board of Dental Examiners

All applications should be mailed to the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners, Suite 100, 600 East Amite Street, Jackson, MS 39201-2801.

Dental Assistant Schools in Mississippi

As mentioned previously, formal training is not required by the state. Yet, many choose to complete programs that meet the above requirements to gain radiographic licensing, which is highly sought after by employers.

Attending a program that is approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) not only meets one of the above stipulations, it would also prepare candidates to gain certification, another valuable asset.

There are currently 3 CODA-approved programs located in Mississippi.

Hinds Community College

Hinds Community College
  • Hinds Community College, Raymond, MS
  • Meridian Community College, Meridian, MS
  • Pearl River Community College, Hattiesburg, MS

CODA-accredited programs take about nine to eleven months to complete and include both classroom study and internships. These programs provide a valuable hands-on learning experience for students.

For students who cannot attend classes in person or who wish to study at their own pace, Penn Foster Career School offers an online program that can get you started from the comfort of your own home.

Certified Dental Assistant

Many dental assistants choose to become nationally certified. Along with checking off another requirement for obtaining your radiographic permit, it also signals to potential employers that you are serious about the dental industry.

It also shows that you will be coming into the position with a certain amount of knowledge and hands-on training. Clinical dental assistant certification is obtained through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Once a CODA-accredited program has been completed, the candidate may apply for a three-part examination through DANB. Dental assisting programs usually include DANB’s General Chairside Assisting (GC), Infection Control (ICE), and Radiography (RHS) exams as part of their curriculum.

The three components of the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam are as follows:

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

The components can be taken all at once or separately as long as they are completed within five years. Examinations are taken through Pearson VUE tests centers, of which there are three locations in Mississippi, two in Jackson, and one in Tupelo.

Certification in Mississippi must be renewed every two years. Candidates must have completed 12 continuing dental education credits each year (for a total of 24) to be eligible for recertification. The breakdown of the necessary credits is as follows:

  • Clinical practice – A maximum of 12 credits over two years
  • DANB and other dental-related exams – A maximum of 12 credits over two years
  • Dental office management – A maximum of 3 credits over two years
  • Volunteer or scholarly activity – A maximum of 3 credits over two years

Additional information about the required credits can be found on DANB’s website.

Dental Assisting National Board

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is a not-for-profit organization that provides nationally recognized certification and credentialing exams for dental assistants.

DANB’s mission is to “promote excellence in dental assisting and to ensure that only qualified individuals enter the profession.” To become certified, dental assistants must pass one or more DANB exams.

Further Studies

Working as a dental assistant is a great way to get into the dental industry on the ground floor, with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow, both within the position and beyond. Depending on where your interests lie, there are several directions in which you could potentially expand your career.

Dental Hygienist – For those who enjoy patient-focused work and wish to learn even more complex dental procedures, obtaining your degree as a dental hygienist would be the natural path to take. It is entirely possible that you could apply some of your dental assisting credits toward your dental hygienist degree as well.

Dental Laboratory Technician – If you enjoy the more technical side of dentistry, you may wish to pursue a dental laboratory technician degree.

This degree allows you to work in the lab filling prescriptions for crowns, bridges, and other dental prosthetics.

Dental Office Manager – For those who find themselves more interested in the business side of operations but still want to be connected to health care, you may be interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business or office administration. This way, you could oversee the operations of a dental practice.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants in the U.S face a bright career outlook. The job is expected to grow by 11 percent from 2020 – 2030, higher than the national average for other occupations.

In Mississippi itself, growth is slightly slower at 8 percent from 2018 – 2028 but still higher than the national average for other occupations.

Much of this growth is thought to be due to the aging population requiring more extensive oral health care and the overall increased awareness of the importance of oral health.

Nationally dental assistants are making about $41,180 per year, which works out to $19.80 per hour. In Mississippi, dental assistants can expect to make less than the national average, making about $38,310 per year and $14.57 per hour. Some dental assistants make up to $45,540 per year, so education and training can play an essential part when considering working in Mississippi.

Working in Mississippi

North Eastern Mississippi has the 3rd highest rate of employment of dental assistants across the U.S. So outside of looking at the higher density population areas such as Jackson, Gulfport, and Southaven, dental assistants entering the job market may benefit from looking at rural areas in the Northern part of the state.

When looking for work, some of the best places to look are dental offices, physician offices, outpatient care centers and even teaching hospitals.

For those interested in learning more, the following resources are an excellent place for job listings, networking opportunities, and continuing education programs.


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