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From the editor’s desk: I became DANB certified 10 years ago and it was a great decision!

Dec. 17, 2020
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, still regrets that she delayed becoming a certified DA. Unfortunately, she listened to others' opinions. Years later she knew she still wanted more in her career, and she went for that certification. You should too!

Years ago, when I was a wee dental assistant, I heard about a test I could take that would qualify me as a “certified” dental assistant. I had attended a dental assisting program, but it did not offer the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) certification exam. I didn’t find out about the certification credential until a few years after I attended the assisting program.

This certification piqued my interested and I wanted to know more. You see, this was before the days of the World Wide Web. When I was a new assistant, we used to hammer a chisel into stone. Not really, but it seems like that looking back! I called and got the information, and I was super excited! I told my coworkers and my parents that this was great. I would become a “certified dental assistant,” as if that were going to place a logo on my chest and a cape on my shoulders. I could see myself standing there, my cape blowing in the wind, and how proud I would look holding my shoulders back and my chest out with pride.

Well, that didn’t last long. During all of my excitement, my coworkers said, “You know you don’t need that,” “Don’t think you’re going to make more money with that,” and “Why would you want to pay for that when you don’t need it?” Then the voices in my head said, “Why would I do that when I don’t need it? What am I going to gain? Is it going to be hard? I’m scared of tests, so will I even be able to do this? What if I fail? That’s a lot of money if I have to take it again.”

And my excitement dwindled.  

The wind was gone from my cape, and a dark cloud formed overhead as I listened to them all. I allowed other people and my own fear to dictate my career path. I allowed the fear to keep me in place and hold me hostage. I allowed people who had never taken the steps toward certification to talk me out of it. I allowed the fears of those who couldn’t muster the confidence to move forward to hold me back. I allowed myself to lose all confidence and motivation.

I still had a longing

Ten years ago, after 29 years in dental assisting, I wanted more. I wasn’t sure at that time what “more” looked like, I just knew I wanted to expand my horizons. That’s when a friend said, “Have you ever thought about becoming a certified dental assistant through DANB?” Whoa! Yes, yes, I had! But, well, never mind. But now I could turn to the DANB website to find out what was required, how much it would be, and where I could sign up. I jumped in feet first, applied, and took the exam a few weeks later.

And I passed. I passed! I walked out of the testing facility proudly with my shoulders back, my chest out, and the wind lifting my cape and blowing my hair! Well, that’s what I felt like was happening anyway. That exam, that hurdle, the one I had put off for years, was behind me. I did it. I was a certified dental assistant; I am a proud certified dental assistant!

I kick myself now for listening to my fears and the doubts of the people around me. I let others dictate my career path. Why? What was I thinking? Why was I so scared? What about the cost? I’m a firm believer in that people afford what they want, and I wanted that certification. So, I made room in my budget, just like I do for anything that I truly want.

What have I gained?

What did I gain from becoming a DANB certified dental assistant (CDA)? While there’s no logo on my chest and no cape on my shoulders or wind blowing my curls in slow motion, I did gain confidence, motivation, a renewed enthusiasm for my career, and excitement about the possibilities of where it can take me. I’ve accomplished so much the last 10 years. I’m on a completely different path, one I never envisioned for myself, and I love it!

There are many benefits to becoming a DANB CDA. Many employers want to hire a DANB CDA. It’s a “next level” accomplishment. To those who told me that I wouldn’t get paid more; they were wrong. When you show dedication, commitment, and drive in your profession, it sets you apart. You create value in yourself by moving forward and proving that you’re one of the best. It’s your accomplishment and you created it. It speaks volumes about who you are and where you want to go.

Do you! If you want to do something that is going to give you pride, accomplishment, set you apart from others, and lead you to bigger and better things, dive in like I did! However, never allow someone else to tell you where you need to be in life. They aren’t you; they don’t walk in your shoes and their goals aren’t yours. Never allow your fears to hold you back because if you do, they will keep you there forever. Taking a leap and jumping out of your shell is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself! Go for it!

To read more from Tija, visit DentistryIQ and search for "from the editor's desk."

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, CDSO, CDSH, MADAA, is a member and current vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. Tija is the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and contributes to Dental Economics magazine. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states.