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
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:
- Diagnosing or planning treatment
- Cutting soft or hard tissue
- Removing teeth or part of tooth structure
- Using air abrasions or air polishing
- 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:
- An application on a form provided by the department
- An application fee
- Evidence of completion of the Dental Anesthesia Assistant National Certification Exam (DAANCE) permit
- Proof of completion of an 8hours didactic training and hands-on experience starting and maintaining intravenous lines
- A current and valid BLS certification
- A valid Washington state general anesthesia permit
- Completion of a 7 hour AIDS education and training course
- Provide any other information required by DQAC
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 review and 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:
- Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham
- Clover Park Technical College, Lakewood
- Penn Foster also offers a comprehensive online program on dental assisting.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant: For this certification, you must possess a current CDA certification or graduate from a CODA-accredited school.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants in Washington earn more compared to national standards.
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.