DANB Credentialing Information

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The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) is a credentialing organization. This page will help you understand the different types of exams administered by DANB and their respective credentialing terms.

Professional Certification (“Board Certification”)

Professional certification is based on professional knowledge, rather than a specific educational curriculum. DANB’s national certification exams are high-stakes exams. An individual who earns national DANB certification is referred to as a “Certificant” and may use the appropriate credentials after his or her name (e.g., Joan Kelly, CDA). These credentials must be renewed to maintain professional certification.

Examples: DANB’s National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA), Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA), and Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) certifications

Certificates of Knowledge-Based Competence

A certificate of knowledge-based competence exam tests a relatively narrow scope of knowledge used to perform duties within a specific profession. This scope is determined by either job analysis or subject matter experts. Those with a certificate of knowledge-based competence may display their certificates, but they have not earned initials to use after their names, nor can they say they are certified or have earned certification. Certificates of knowledge-based competence do not need to be renewed.

Examples: DANB’s Infection Control (ICE) and Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exams

Certificate Program

A certificate program is a training program on a topic for which participants receive a certificate after attendance and/or completion of the coursework. Some programs also require successful demonstration of attainment of the course objectives. One who completes a professional certificate program is known as a certificate holder. A credential is usually not granted at the completion of a certificate program. There are three types of certificate programs: knowledge-based certificate, curriculum-based certificate and certificate of attendance or participation.

Examples: The DALE Foundation's Accounts Receivable for the Dental Office and HR Fundamentals for the Dental Office


Fellowship is the highest level of membership for many professional organizations. (Please note that DANB is a credentialing organization, not a membership association.) Although requirements for fellowship vary among organizations, they typically include:

  • A certain number of years as a member
  • Nomination by colleagues
  • Continued formal education or training
  • Evidence of substantial achievement in the profession

Examples: FADAA (Fellow of the American Dental Assistants Association), FAADOM (Fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Managers), FAGD (Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry)

I am a Director of Dental Assisting at Minuteman Technical Adult Career Center in Lexington, MA. The DANB credential enhances my image by establishing credibility. It alerts people to the level of competency and knowledge one possesses.
Ellen Gambardella, CDA Certified for 40 Years