In the wake of Dr. Harrington's office, DANB addresses delegating duties to dental assistants

April 4, 2013
DANB is the only national certification board for dental assistants recognized by the ADA.

CHICAGO — On March 28, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry filed a 17-count complaint against an oral surgeon in Tulsa, Okla. Charges include being a menace to public health and gross negligence. Specific allegations include using rusty instruments, reusing needles, not properly sterilizing instruments, not properly maintaining or using the autoclave, using expired medications, keeping incomplete drug logs, and allowing unlicensed dental staff to start IVs. Dental offices across the U.S. will likely see an increase in questions regarding delegation of dental assisting duties, including infection control requirements.

The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) is the only national certification board for dental assistants recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). DANB's mission is to promote the public good by providing credentialing services to the dental community. To this end, we are alarmed by the recent news and share our deepest sympathy and concerns for the patients involved. We are saddened that events like this occur that compromise public safety.

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DANB provides a number of services to assist in public protection, including offering national certifications and exams for dental assistants. These include DANB's Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), and Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) certifications.* After thorough research, we have determined that neither of the dental assistants involved in the Oklahoma case are DANB certified, nor have they ever taken any DANB exams.

Dentists are ultimately responsible for ensuring the practice is in compliance with state law. To assist dentists in their hiring decisions, DANB provides a free online credential verification database to verify the names of dental assistants who have earned DANB national certifications, as well as those who have earned certificates of knowledge-based competency in important areas such as radiation health and safety (RHS), infection control (ICE), coronal polish (CP), sealants (SE), topical anesthetic (TA), and topical fluoride (TF).

DANB supports the dental community and promotes public safety by publishing DANB's Code of Professional Conduct. All dental professionals who apply for or take a DANB exam or earn DANB certification must also abide by this code. According to DANB's Code of Professional Conduct, the dental assistant has a duty to know the law, to act within the law, and to report to proper authorities those who fail to act within the law.

DANB compiles and publishes information on dental assisting regulations and requirements for each state, including permitted and prohibited duties. This information is available online to dental professionals and the public, and DANB encourages all patients and dental professionals to know the requirements in their state.

Each state determines its own education, exam, and credentialing requirements for dental assistants, and DANB is available to assist state agencies in meeting their public protection missions. Currently 38 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Air Force recognize or require DANB exams, and there are more than 35,000 DANB certificants nationwide. Since April 1997, more than 125,000 dental assistants have passed DANB's RHS exam, and more than 68,000 dental assistants have passed DANB's ICE exam.

DANB is independent of state regulatory agencies and has no authority over legislative or regulatory decisions. When requested, DANB acts as a resource to state dental boards by providing information and research. DANB views licensure as an issue best addressed at the state level. However, DANB supports mandatory education and credentialing of dental assistants, and believes it is in the public and profession's best interest for these requirements to be as uniform across states as possible.

Additional Resources

DANB's Credential Verification

DANB's Exam and Certification Information

DANB's State Information

DANB's Professional Standards

DANB's Statement on Delegating Duties to Dental Assistants (PDF)