For some dental assistants one certification is not enough

Oct. 17, 2012
Being credentialed is important for future dental assisting careers. The Dental Assisting National Board talks about the various DANB certifications that are available.

When Karen Caraco, CDA, COA, CPFDA decided to go back into the dental assisting field after a decade-long hiatus to raise a family, she decided earning multiple certifications would help her land the right job. “It was important to me,” says Caraco, who now works part-time for a private dental practice outside Boston. Dentists and patients, she says, are starting to recognize certification more than they did when she went to dental assisting school in 1980. “A lot of patients ask about my credentials,” says Caraco. “Things are changing.”

Janice Tunis, CDA, COA, CDPMA, has worked in the dental field for 33 years and also believes in the rewards that earning multiple certifications brings. “I have been employed in orthodontics and practice management for most of my career,” she says. “For the last 11 years I have been lucky enough to be a dental assisting educator. I say lucky, but I really feel that it is my certifications that have allowed me such wonderful opportunities.”

“I decided to study and take [DANB’s national certification exams] to prove to myself that I could do it,” says Nancy Goeckel, CDA, CDPMA, COA, RDA, who has been working for the same dental practice since 1965. “It was very rewarding financially, and my abilities as an assistant improved with my knowledge.”

Hundreds of oral healthcare professionals have earned two or more DANB certifications, which include Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) and Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA). Other DANB certification exams that are no longer available but are still renewable include the Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Assistant (COMSA) and Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA). Plans are in the works to launch two new certification programs: Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) and Entry Level Dental Assistant (ELDA), which are scheduled for 2013 and 2014 availability, respectively.

Cathy J. Roberts, CDA, COA, CDPMA, EFDA, MADAA, former DANB Board of Directors member, American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) Past President, is another dental assistant who no doubt needs a large name tag to accommodate her growing list of credentials. “My motivation to earn multiple DANB certifications has always been to advance my career as a dental assistant,” she says. Roberts is also planning to take the CPFDA exam now that Indiana allows dental assistants to perform coronal polishing and fluoride application procedures. “I feel my certifications have opened doors for me as a dental professional,” she says. “I hope that in my lifetime, we see some sort of standard for dental assistants and use the national credential to allow dental assistants to move from state to state without retaking all the state certifications.”

“My credentials prove that I am who I say I am, and that I know what I say I know,” adds Tunis, now a dental assisting program instructor in Greenwood, Indiana. “I love to pass this knowledge on to my students. Being credentialed is so important for their future careers in dentistry.”

The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) is recognized by the ADA as the national certification board for dental assistants. For more information, please go to, or contact Cynthia C. Durley, M.Ed., MBA, Executive Director of DANB, at 1-800-367-3262 with any questions.