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New state, new rules: When dental assistants relocate

June 17, 2021
As though moving to a new state isn't stressful enough, dental assistants have the added challenge of settling into their career under a new set of state rules.

While we love our dental assisting careers, many of us end up leaving the field because of how difficult it is to move from one state to another. Dental assistants want to know what the state requirements are for credentialing and whether they can perform the functions they did in their last job, and the answers are often very frustrating. Not a week goes by that I don’t see these questions posted on social media platforms for assistants.

Why it's challenging for many

Dental assisting delegable duties vary from state to state because there is no national standardization. There are different requirements and varying categories and credentials for dental assistants in every state. An expanded function dental assistant (EFDA) in Colorado is different than a licensed dental assistant (LDA) in Minnesota or an expanded duty dental assistant (EDDA) in Georgia, however, they might be able to perform many of the same duties. Some states require graduation from an accredited dental assisting program through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), while other states allow for employer training in the dental practice and no formal education through an assisting program. This makes it very difficult for dental assistants, who are already in short supply, to relocate to other states.

State regulating bodies don’t always regulate the entire team

The practices of dentistry, dental therapy, and dental hygiene are regulated in all states by a dental or dental hygiene board. Some states also regulate assistants if they’re recognized in the state dental practice act. Each state’s board issues licenses, handles disciplinary matters, and sets rules detailing how dental professionals must comply with the requirements of state dental practice acts. Almost all dental boards in the US develop standards of professional conduct, including continuing education requirements to maintain a high level of integrity and performance in the practice of dentistry, dental therapy, dental hygiene, and in some cases, dental assisting. Each state’s regulating body has a website for dental professionals for up-to-date information about practicing legally in that state.

State reciprocity is available in some states

Dental assisting certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is recognized or required in 39 states, the District of Columbia, the US Air Force, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. DANB certification can make it easier to meet dental assisting requirements if you move and want to continue your career in a new state. Once you are certified through DANB, you need to maintain certain requirements such as active CPR certification and continuing education. More information can be found at DANB.org.

Tips for your move

  • Before you move, go to your new state’s dental board website and print the application. Some processes take several months to complete, so you’ll want to start well in advance of your move.
  • Read everything thoroughly so you understand what is being asked.
  • Make copies of everything that is submitted to the dental board just in case you must resubmit it.
  • Request that copies of program transcripts, background checks, and credentialing materials to be sent to you.
  • Allow anywhere from three to six months to receive your credential or authorization so you can practice. Remember to record the dates and people you correspond with each time you have contact with the dental board.
  • Make connections in the area you will be moving to through social media. There are several groups of dental professionals on various social platforms.
  • Consider maintaining your current state credential in case you move back to the area.
  • Reach out to the new state’s dental association to learn about continuing education opportunities and additional resources.

Moving to a new state doesn't have to be so stressful! Many dental professionals who relocate network with their peers ahead of their move to make connections with like-minded individuals. This can help not only in finding employment; your new friends can also often answer your questions about the new area. Best of luck in your relocation endeavors!

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDARF, CDA, is past president of the American Dental Assistants Association.

About the Author

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.