National Credential
Credential: Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)  In-Demand resource  GI Bill resource  NCCA resource  IAS resource
Credentialing Agency: Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential is an intermediate-level certification for dental technicians and dental office professionals who assist dentists, set up dental equipment, prepare patients for treatment, and keep records. CDAs have the knowledge and applied skill-level necessary to provide general chairside assisting, practice radiation health and safety, support infection control activities, and perform other dental assisting-related work requirements. CDAs fill a variety of roles in the dental office; some of these include preparing patients for dental procedures, ensuring sterility in the dental environment, assisting dentists during procedures by providing tools and materials, working with suppliers to schedule deliveries, helping patients schedule appointments, teaching patients about proper oral health, and taking patient x-rays. Applicants for the CDA are required to meet education and experience requirements. Applicants must also take a written exam.

More information can be found on the certifying agency's website.

Renewal Period: 1 year

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

The following Army Occupations provide training and/or experience that contributes to attaining this credential:

Personnel Category Occupation Occupation Type Related As Promotion Points Skill Level Star Proponent Funded Gap Analysis
Enlisted 68E Dental Specialist MOS most  Promotion Points: This certification has been approved for promotion points. Click for more information. II Star credentialStar    
Enlisted X2 Preventive Dentistry Specialty ASI most     Star credentialStar    

Army Table Legend

Related As

The military occupations shown in this table are related to this credential in one of four ways: Most, Some, or Other.

Most: This credential is directly related to most of the major duties associated with the military occupation (at least 80%). Note that the credential may require additional education, training or experience before you are eligible for it.

Some: This credential is related to some tasks associated with the duties of the military occupation (related 80% to at least one or more critical tasks but less than 80% of all of the entire military occupation). Note that the credential may require additional education, training or experience before you are eligible for it.

Other: This credential is related to this military occupation, but is more advanced or specialized and therefore will likely require additional education, training, or experience.

Promotion Points Promotion Points icon

This credential has been approved for promotion points for this MOS towards promotion to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant. Clicking the Promotion Points icon will open a link to the promotion points fact sheet.

Skill Level Designation

Skill Level I: This skill level consists of all Soldiers in the ranks of Private (pay grade E-1) up to Specialist (pay grade E-4). Time in Service (TIS) is generally between initial entry and four Years of Service (YOS). This skill level is Entry-level positions requiring performance of tasks under direct supervision.

Institutional training:

  • Structured Self-Development (SSD) level I
  • Basic Leader Course (BLC)

Skill Level II: This skill level is obtained when promoted to Sergeant (paygrade E-5). TIS is generally between 4-8 YOS. Positions requiring performance of more difficult tasks under general supervision; and in some instances, involving supervision of Soldiers in SL1.

Institutional training:

  • Structured Self-Development (SSD) level II
  • Advance Leader Course (ALC)

Skill Level III: This skill level is obtained when promoted to Staff Sergeant (paygrade E-6). TIS is generally between 8-12 YOS. Positions requiring performance of still more difficult tasks and involving first line supervision of Soldiers in SL1 & SL2.

Institutional training:

  • Senior Leader Course (SLC)
  • Structured Self-Development (SSD) level III

Skill level IV: This skill level is obtained when promoted to the rank of Sergeant First Class (paygrade E-7). TIS is generally between 12-18 YOS. Positions requiring relatively detailed knowledge of all tasks specified for a given MOS, normally involving first-line supervision of Soldiers in SLs 1, 2, and 3, and involving managerial duties.

Institutional training:

  • Master Leader Course (MLC)
  • Structured Self-Development (SSD) level IV
  • Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education (SEJPME) I Course

Skill level V: This skill level is obtained when promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant (paygrade E-8). TIS is generally between 18-22 YOS. Positions requiring direct and indirect leadership roles with expertise in company and battalion-level operations and competency across a given CMF, serving as members of a staff at every level in the Army, with a full understanding of the allocation of resources and their utilization in order to accomplish Army functions and missions.

Institutional training:

  • United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA)
  • Structured Self-Development (SSD) level V

Skill level VI: This skill level is obtained when promoted to the rank of Sergeants Major (paygrade E-9). TIS is generally between 22-30 YOS. Positions requiring organizational leadership roles with multi-dimensional expertise in units and teams on division, corps, and Army staffs, integrated with Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) partners with a full understanding of the Force Generation process, operations at all echelons, and how the Army runs.

Star Credential Star icon

Star credentials are MOS enhancing, as designated by the Proponent. MOS enhancing credentials are directly related to an MOS or ASI, are taught either partially or completely as part of a Program of Instruction (POI), and improve the MOS technical proficiency.

Proponent Funded Funded icon

This icon indicates credentials which Soldiers may have funded through their MOS proponent. Some proponents offer credentialing opportunities in conjunction with military training and/or as part of MOS development beyond the training base.

Gap Analysis Has Analysis icon

A detailed analysis comparing the credential requirements to the military occupation has been completed. Click on the gap analysis icon to view the analysis page.

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Eligibility Requirements ()

Note: This credential may have multiple options for becoming eligible. Listed below are the minimum requirements based on the minimum degree required. To view other options, see the Eligibility tab.

  • Credential Prerequisite
  • Experience: 3500 hours
  • Education: High School Diploma/GED
  • Training
  • Membership
  • Other
  • Fee

Exam Requirements ()

  • Written Exam
  • Oral Exam
  • Practical Exam
  • Performance Assessment

Renewal Period: 1 year

  • Continuing Education
  • Exam
  • Continuing Education OR Exam
  • Fee
  • Other

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)
444 N. Michigan Ave.
Suite 900
Chicago, IL  60611
Phone: (800) 367-3262
Fax: (312) 642-8507
Contact Page

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Pathway 1:

Applicants must meet both requirements:

  • Graduated from a CODA-accredited dental assisting or dental hygiene program;
  • Hold current CPR from a DANB-accepted provider;

Pathway 2:

Applicants must meet all of the following:

  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Have Minimum of 3,500 hours work experience as a dental assistant, accrued over a period of at least two years (24 months, if employed full-time) to a maximum of four years (48 months, if employed part-time); employment must be verified by a licensed dentist;
  • Hold current CPR from a DANB accepted provider;

Pathway 3:

Applicants must meet all of the following:

  • Hold status as a current or former DANB CDA or Graduation from a CODA-accredited D.D.S. or D.M.D. program or Graduation from a dental degree program outside of the U.S. or Canada;
  • Hold current CPR from a DANB accepted provider.

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential has the following other requirements:

  • Applicants must hold a current Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate from a DANB-CPR provider. CPR Certification must be current at the date of the examination.

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

The CDA exam is made up of three component exams, Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Infection Control (ICE) and General Chairside Assisting (GC). Candidates are required to take all three exams. They may take the RHS and ICE exams at the same test administration (RHS/ICE), or take and pass the component exams separately within a five-year period to earn certification. There are no eligibility requirements to take the RHS and ICE exams. Candidates are required to meet eligibility requirement to take General Chairside exam.

To become a CDA, applicants must pass all the three component exams, General Chairside (GC), Radiation Health & Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE) within a five year period, or pass the CDA exam in its entirety.

  • Collection and Recording of Clinical Data (10%)
    • Basic Oral and Dental Anatomy, Physiology and Development (including but not limited to blood vessels, bones, glands/lymphatics, muscles, nerves, oral cavity, and teeth)
    • Preliminary Physical Examination
    • Charting
    • Diagnostic Aids
    • Treatment Documentation
  • Chairside Dental Procedures (45%)
    • Four-Handed Dentistry Techniques
    • Select and Prepare Armamentarium
    • Intraoral Procedures
    • Patient Management
  • Chairside Dental and Laboratory Materials (13%)
    • Chairside Dental Materials (Preparation, Manipulation, Application): Impression, Restorative, Sedative/Palliative, and Other Dental Materials
    • Laboratory Materials and Procedures; material selection, manipulation, and storage
  • Patient Education and Oral Health Management (10%)
    • Oral Health Information Provided to Patients
    • Pre- and Post-Treatment Instruction
    • Plaque Control Techniques
    • Nutrition
  • Prevention and Management of Patient Emergencies (12%)
    • Oral Health Information
    • Pre-/Post-Treatment Instruction
    • Demonstrate an understanding of plaque control techniques, including but not limited to: appropriate toothbrush selection and brushing techniques, evaluate oral healthcare status and habits, evaluate response to home-care therapy, provide preventive oral healthcare information based on individual needs, select and use oral hygiene devices (e.g., brushes, floss, interdental aids, oral rinses, irrigating aids), and select and use plaque disclosing aids.
    • Nutrition
  • Office Operations (10%)
    • Supply and Inventory Control
    • Maintenance of Equipment/Instruments
    • Patient Reception, Communication and Accounting
    • Legal Aspects of Dentistry
  • Expose and Evaluate (26%)
    • Assessment and Preparation
    • Acquire
    • Evaluate
    • Patient Management
  • Quality Assurance and Radiology Regulations (21%)
    • Quality Assurance
    • Radiology Regulations
  • Radiation Safety for Patients and Operators (31%)
    • Identify current American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines for patient selection and limiting radiation exposure.
    • Apply the principles of radiation protection and hazards in the operation of radiographic equipment.
    • Demonstrate knowledge of patient safety measures to provide protection from x-radiation.
    • Address patient radiation concerns (e.g., informed consent, patient refusal).
    • Identify operator safety measures to provide protection from x-radiation.
    • Describe techniques for monitoring individual x-radiation exposure.
  • Infection Control (22%)
    • Standard Precautions for Equipment
    • Standard Precautions for Patients and Operators
  • Standard Precautions and the Prevention of Disease Transmission (20%)
    • Recognize infectious diseases and their relationship to patient and occupational risk.
    • Demonstrate understanding of how to review a medical history to prevent adverse reactions during dental care (e.g., adverse reactions to latex or vinyl).
    • Demonstrate understanding of proper hand hygiene as performed before, during and after oral surgery and intraoral procedures.
    • Describe how to protect the patient and operator by using personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., masks, gloves, eyewear, gowns).
    • Demonstrate understanding of how to protect the patient and operator through the reduction of aerosol, droplets and spatter.
  • Prevent Cross-Contamination During Procedures (34%)
    • Demonstrate understanding of how to maintain aseptic conditions to prevent cross-contamination for procedures and services.
  • Instrument/Device Processing (26%)
    • Demonstrate understanding of processing reusable dental instruments and devices.
    • Demonstrate understanding of how to monitor and maintain processing equipment and sterilizers (e.g., ultrasonic cleaner, autoclave).
  • Occupational Safety/Administrative Protocols (20%)
    • Demonstrate understanding of occupational safety standards and guidelines for personnel.
    • Demonstrate understanding of how to maintain and document programs/policies for infection control and safety.

There are a number of resources available to help you prepare for the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination:

An additional resource is Safari Books Online, a searchable digital library that provides online access to thousands of books, training videos and conference sessions. See the Educational Resources page here on COOL to learn how to get free access.

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Renewal Period: 1 year

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential has the following recertification information:

  • Current CDA holders must recertify each year by earning Continuing Dental Education (CDE) credits, continue to hold current DANB-accepted CPR certification, and submitting renewal fee payment. Full details can be found in the DANB Recertification Requirements Guide.

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Additional considerations for the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) include:

  • Applicants are required to provide all documents for verification along with the application. Additional details on documents required for each pathway can be obtained from the CDA Exam Application Packet.
  • After passing the RHS and ICE exams, applicants receive a certificate of knowledge-based competency for each exam passed. The RHS exam is recognized or required in 22 states and the District of Columbia to meet radiography requirements. The ICE exam meets state requirements for infection control in 5 states.  The CDA exam is recognized or required in 32 states and the District of Columbia for either radiography or for performing expanded functions. Currently, a total of 38 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize or require DANB exams for dental assisting practice.