As anyone who works in the dental assisting field knows, the dental profession is constantly evolving. New requirements at the state-level reflect changes that are intended to improve dentistry and offer the best oral health care to patients. Keeping up-to-date and well-informed is essential.
Currently, there is no nationally accepted set of guidelines that governs the practice of dental assisting in the U.S. However, each state has a dental practice act that governs the practice of dentistry and defines the allowable activities of dental assistants. Additionally, every state recognizes dental assistants in its dental practice act or administrative rules. Only Washington, D.C., does not address the practice of dental assisting.
Since it is ultimately the dental assistant’s responsibility to provide safe and quality oral health care in compliance with state practice laws, the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB), a national certification and testing agency, created a feature on its Web site dedicated to providing dental assistants, employer/dentists, and dental assisting educators with information on dental assisting functions and requirements. The innovative online resource offers reader-friendly, state-specific information on dental assisting functions that are allowed state-by-state and the requirements needed to practice them.
Web site visitors can access this simple-to-use feature by clicking the “State-Specific Information” button at www.danb.org. The section provides the following information:
- At-a-glance job titles for each level of the dental assisting career ladder;
- Links to information about which DANB exams are recognized in each state;
- Links to easy-to-read charts listing functions and requirements that clearly show the titles for each level of dental assistant, the duties dental assistants are allowed to perform at each level and under what type of supervision (if applicable), the duties that are restricted, and the education or credentials that are required to perform these duties;
- A link to the state board of dentistry Web site to ensure that the most recent information is posted, or in case additional information is needed.
The link to the “Dental Assisting Functions and Requirements Chart” is especially valuable for those researching allowable tasks - those tasks that can be performed in the dental office under current state law. Using state practice acts and administrative rules from each state’s regulatory bodies, DANB compiled all pertinent dental assistant practice information nationwide. It is organized on a state-by-state basis and laid out to make online navigation very simple.
The Web site is invaluable for anyone who is either entering the field, seeking career guidance, or wanting to understand the regulations for each state. It can help dental assistants who plan to relocate, who are interested in continuing their education, and who seek to develop their professional skills. In addition to benefiting dental assistants, the “State-Specific Information” can benefit the oral health-care community in a number of ways:
- Dentists can use it as a quick reference to ensure that they are up-to-date on their states’ dental assisting requirements and allowable duties;
- It aids state dental board members and officials who are interested in comparing their state’s requirements to others;
- It helps employer dentists recruit qualified dental assistants;
- It provides an easy way for state dental boards, state dental associations, and other members of the oral health-care community to compare dental assisting requirements across the nation;
- It assists state dental boards in communicating dental assisting regulatory requirements to dentists and dental assistants in each state, with an eye toward improving understanding among members of the oral health-care team about appropriate and legal delegation of advanced tasks to dental assistants.
DANB updates the state-specific information during a formal review process annually and as it becomes available through legislative monitoring or communication from state regulators. DANB also offers hardcopy versions of online information in DANB’s State Career Ladder Templates for Dental Assistants and DANB’s State Fact Booklet.
Dental assistants will, no doubt, find DANB’s new Web site feature beneficial as a resource full of information for advancing in the profession. The great satisfaction that comes from being part of the health and healing process for dental patients is amplified as an assistant becomes more knowledgeable and capable in his or her duties. It’s that great satisfaction that helps make the dental assistant’s job fulfilling.
DANB is recognized by the American Dental Association as the premier national certification and testing agency for dental assistants. DANB’s certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). DANB serves the public good by providing a means of identifying qualified and competent dental assistants and by measuring and promoting excellence in oral health care delivery.