Becoming a Dental Assistant in Washington

Dental assistants are in high demand due to their invaluable support to dentists. Washington is a great place to start your dental assistant career because of the strong job growth prospects in the sector. 

As a dental assistant, you perform various administrative and supportive duties like:

  • Helping with infection control by cleaning dental equipment
  • Providing patient care
  • Recording medical history
  • Ordering dental supplies and inventories
  • Scheduling appointments
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But your duties are not only limited to that! Depending on how ambitious you are, you can acquire skills and certifications to take on additional expanded responsibilities to work as a dental assistant in Washington. Washington has various levels of dental assistants

  • Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)
  • Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary (EFDA)
  • Dental Anesthesia Assistant 

What Are Your Responsibilities as a Registered Dental Assistant?

Under general and close supervision, as a registered dental assistant, you can perform the following functions:

  • Apply sealant/fluoride varnish only to treat children
  • Remove and place arch wires and orthodontic wires
  • Apply sealants
  • Place and remove rubber dam
  • Remove periodontal pack or sutures

What Are Your Duties As an EFDA?

As an expanded function dental auxiliary, you will be allowed to perform the following functions under general or close supervision:

  • Perform coronal polishing
  • Give fluoride treatment
  • Place, expose, and process radiographs
  • Place, carve, finish and polish direct restorations
  • All other functions by a registered dental assistant.

What Are Your Duties as a Dental Anesthesia Assistant?

You will be allowed to perform the following duties under the supervision of a licensed dentist:

  • Initiating and discontinuing intravenous lines
  • Adjusting the rate of intravenous fluids
  • Drawing up and preparing medications
  • Administering emergency medications
  • Adjusting electronic devices to provide medication

There are, however, some procedures you will not be allowed to perform as a dental assistant irrespective of supervision. These tasks include:

  1. Diagnosing or planning treatment
  2. Cutting soft or hard tissue
  3. Removing teeth or part of tooth structure
  4. Using air abrasions or air polishing
  5. Adjusting a fixed or removable appliance while it’s still in a patient’s mouth

Requirements For Dental Assistants in Washington

As a dental assistant in the state of Washington, you do not require a formal education to work. However, you must be registered at the Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission (DQAC). You must also complete 7 hours of AIDS education and hold a Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

To take on expanded duties, you must also acquire licenses and permits for each task you would like to tackle. Here are the qualifications required to take on expanded duties:

Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary

To become an EFDA, you must:

  • Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assistant program
  • Complete an EFDA course approved by the DQAC
  • Pass the Washington State Restorative Exam(WARE) administered by the Dental Assistant National Board(DANB)
  • Pass the clinical exam administered by the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB
  • Provided evidence of completion of a 7hours AIDS education training
  • Provide other information determined by the DQAC
  • Apply to DQAC for an EFDA license 

Dental Anesthesia Assistant

To get the permit for performing this duty, you must submit the following to DQAC:

  1. An application on a form provided by the department
  2. An application fee
  3. Evidence of completion of the Dental Anesthesia Assistant National Certification Exam (DAANCE) permit
  4. Proof of completion of an 8hours didactic training and hands-on experience starting and maintaining intravenous lines
  5. A current and valid BLS certification
  6. A valid Washington state general anesthesia permit 
  7. Completion of a 7 hour AIDS education and training course
  8. Provide any other information required by DQAC

Radiographic Function

All dental assistants, both RDAs or EFDAs who operate x-ray equipment in Washington, are required to have expertise in the components of x-ray equipment. Areas of competence must include:

  • Familiarization with equipment
  • Radiation protection
  • Film processing

An RDA requires close supervision, while an EFDA requires general supervision to perform these duties under a licensed dentist.

Sealant and Fluoride Varnish

An RDA in Washington state may earn an endorsement in sealant/fluoride varnish solely to treat children in school-based programs. To achieve this endorsement, you must:

  • Provide proof of 200 hours of employment by a WA licensed dentist
  • Provide evidence of completion of training program meeting the Washington state standards
  • Submit an application and fee

Dental Assistant Schools in Washington

Although you do not need a formal education to start a dental assisting career in WA, employers are more apt to seek candidates with strong qualifications.

To acquire further qualifications that will enable you to perform expanded functions, you should attend dental assistant programs by entering schools accredited by CODA.

Washington has a couple of CODA-accredited technical colleges that offer dental assistant programs. Here are a few options you may choose from:

Students in this college take an eleven-month program. To apply for this program, you must possess a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years of age. You will also get the chance to take the DBANs nations certificate as a dental assistant.

The college offers an associate in applied science, a certificate in dental assisting, and a certificate in expanded function dental auxiliary. In addition, you get trained in skills such as patient education, office management and other essential duties.

As a student in this college, you will get training in first aid, dental sciences, radiology, infection control and lab procedures. 

The college offers an associate in applied science and hands-on experience working in the campus dental clinic to aspiring dental assistants.

Other CODA-accredited colleges in Washington include: 

License and Certification

Combining professional certification with formal education will boost your chances of employment and increase your credibility as a dental assistant.

Here are a few certifications you should pursue

  1. Certified dental assistant (CDA): To take the exam for this certification, you must graduate from a COAD accredited dental assisting program. Or complete at least 3,500 hours of approved work experience. 
  2. Certified preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA): For this certification, you must either graduate from a COAD accredited dental assisting program or have a current CDA certification and verification of competency in each of the four CFDA functions.
  3. Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant: For this certification, you must possess a current CDA certification or graduate from a CODA-accredited school.

Salary Expectation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants in Washington earn more compared to national standards.

Dental assistants in Washington earn an average pay of $39,800 per year and $19.14 per hour. Dental assistants in Seattle make as high as $37,560 in a year and $18.06 per hour.

You should note that salaries vary widely based on your place of employment and location. Top earners earn as high as $49,395. However, you should expect to earn about $43,424 and look to earn more with time. 

Future Career Outlook

Washington has the second-highest number of dental assistants in the United States, with over 9,220 dental assistants. Populous cities such as Bellingham, Seattle, Lakewood and Tacoma are good places to seek employment and earn high.

As a dental assistant, you have many opportunities for career growth. For example, you may choose to work as a dental laboratory technician, dental sales representative, dental office manager, or dental anesthesia assistant. You may even decide to move from your dental assistant career to a new career as a dental hygienist.

Related:

College Listings in Washington

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Lake Washington Institute of Technology

11605 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, Washington 98034-8506
(425) 739-8100
https://www.lwtech.edu/academics/dental-assistant/

Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s diploma program is offered at their campus in Kirkland in King County, WA. The program is accredited by the ADA. The college has approximately 3,782 students in total, with the majority of students on 4-year programs. Typical in-state tuition fees are approximately $3,907 per year, while the fees for students from other states are $9,096.

Pima Medical Institute-Seattle

9709 Third Ave NE Suite 400, Seattle, Washington 98115
(206) 322-6100
https://pmi.edu/programs/certificate/dental-assistant

Pima Medical Institute’s diploma program is offered at their campus in the city of Seattle, WA. The majority of the school’s 733 students are on 2-year programs. The dental assistant program has annual tuition fees of $12,190 and material costs of $714. The average completion time for the program is 8 months.

Renton Technical College

3000 NE Fourth St, Renton, Washington 98056-4123
(425) 235-2352
https://www.rtc.edu/dental-assistant

The Certificate program at Renton Technical College is offered at their campus in the city of Renton. The program is accredited by the American Dental Association. The college has about 3,312 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Fees at this school are about $4,720 per year. Fees for students from other states are $4,720.

Seattle Vocational Institute

2120 S Jackson, Seattle, Washington 98144-2219
(206) 934-4950
https://svi.seattlecolleges.edu/dental-assistant

Seattle Vocational Institute’s diploma program is offered at their campus in the city of Seattle, WA. The program is accredited by the American Dental Association. This public college has approximately 317 students in total, with the majority of students on programs that last under 2 years.Tuition fees at this college are approximately $3,794 per year, while fees for out-of-state students are $3,794.

Bates Technical College

1101 S Yakima Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98405
(253) 680-7000
https://batestech.edu/programs/dental-assisting/

Bates Technical College’s diploma program is offered at their campus in the city of Tacoma, WA. The program is accredited by the American Dental Association. The college has about 4,158 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Tuition fees at this college are about $5,151 per year. Fees for students from other states are $5,151.

Bates Technical College

1101 S Yakima Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98405
(253) 680-7000
https://batestech.edu/programs/dental-assisting/

The Associate’s program at Bates Technical College is taught at their Tacoma campus. This program of study is accredited by the American Dental Association. This public college has approximately 4,158 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Fees at this school are approximately $5,151 per year. The fees for out-of-state students are $5,151.

Clover Park Technical College

4500 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, Washington 98499-4004
(253) 589-5800
http://cptc.edu/programs/dental

The Certificate program at Clover Park Technical College is taught at their Lakewood campus. The program is accredited by the ADA. The majority of the school’s 3,666 students are on 2-year programs. Typical in-state tuition fees are approximately $4,451 per year. The fees for out-of-state students are $9,611.

Clover Park Technical College

4500 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, Washington 98499-4004
(253) 589-5800
http://cptc.edu/programs/dental

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Lakewood campus. This program of study is accredited by the ADA. The majority of the school’s 3,666 students are on 2-year programs. In-state tuition fees are approximately $4,451 per year. Fees for out-of-state students are $9,611.

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA

Spokane Community College

1810 North Greene Street, Spokane, Washington 99217-5399
(509) 533-8020
https://scc.spokane.edu/What-to-Study/Healthcare/Dental/Dental-Assisting?page=PV1

The Associate’s program at Spokane Community College is offered at their campus in the city of Spokane. This program of study is accredited by the ADA. The college has around 6,961 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Typical in-state tuition is approximately $3,489 per year. Tuition for students from outside Washington is $8,680.