Passing DANB exams is the exciting next step for many dental assistants.
In 2021, more than 2,500 DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam candidates joined the community of 36,000-plus DANB certificants.
New certificants agree passing DANB exams is an accomplishment worth celebrating. They’re quickly learning there are many personal and professional advantages to becoming and staying certified.
“DANB CDA certificants stand out as dental assistants,” says Brian Andrade, CDA, of Central Islip, New York, who earned certification in December 2021. “Anyone who has any knowledge about how much work it takes to actually pass the exams, and how much information the exams cover, understands just what becoming certified truly means.”
Meredith Marks, CDA, of Stuart, Iowa, agrees earning DANB certification is meaningful: “I proved to myself that I can be successful if I try, and that I can get through anything with hard work.”
The journey to earning DANB certification
There are many reasons to become certified — for dental assistants to grow their knowledge, skills and salary; to climb the career ladder; and to provide better patient care and team contributions, among other reasons. For many, the certification journey started in school or at the office where they were first introduced to the field.
Marks came to the “dental world,” as she calls it, through a high school job-shadowing opportunity at Johnson Orthodontics in Iowa. “I was pretty lucky to have that,” she reflects, “and I really took a liking there to dental assisting.”
Marks went on to study dental assisting at Des Moines Area Community College, then accepted a full-time assistant role at Johnson Orthodontics in August 2021 and earned DANB CDA certification three months later. In school, Marks remembers learning why she should consider certification. “I realized it was something I would like to do,” she says. “I’m so happy I did it.”
While attending Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine’s one-year dental assisting program in 2018, Andrade also heard about certification.
But it was when he graduated and immediately afterward started working at Goldberg Orthodontics in Roslyn, New York, that Andrade really took the next steps, with the support of his employer.
“It was the initial plan from the get-go that I would get certified,” Andrade elaborates. “When the dentist hired me, he said, ‘I like my assistants to be certified here.’”
The benefits CDA certification brings
Once they became immersed in the DANB exam-application and preparation process, both Andrade and Marks realized becoming certified would bring many benefits.
First, passing DANB exams involves extensive studying, so preparing for the exams helped expand on the knowledge they gained in the classroom. Marks found the practice tests available through DANB’s affiliate, the DALE Foundation, to be helpful refreshers of dental assisting topics she learned in school.
Beyond knowledge, Andrade has seen his salary grow since passing DANB exams. “Holding certification can bring perks such as better pay,” he says. “Plus, you stand out from the rest, compared to an assistant who isn’t certified, when it comes to hiring. I feel like employers would rather choose to bring someone who is certified into the office.”
Marks says for her, the top benefit of becoming certified is having career mobility in case she’d like to take a position out of state. “It’s cool knowing that I could be of help anywhere in the dental assisting field,” she shares. “There’s nothing holding me back if I want to move.”
Dental assistants who earn certification also report feeling professional pride. “When I read that I passed all of the exams on my first try, I was overjoyed,” Andrade remembers. “It was a very good feeling.” Marks agrees finding out she passed was a special moment: “I called my parents when I found out — I was just ecstatic. The tests were not easy at all, and I studied really hard.”
Certification is just the beginning
For most, becoming CDA certified is the first of many professional goals they hope to achieve. This is true for Andrade and Marks.
Both assistants are now encouraged to keep going in their DANB certification journey. Since they work in orthodontics, they’re considering also becoming DANB Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) certified in the near future. “I’m figuring out a game plan for when,” shares Andrade.
In the long-term, Andrade believes that maintaining certification will strengthen his applications for pursuing higher education in medicine or dentistry. Marks feels the same way about potentially studying dental hygiene and plans to pursue expanded functions credentials.
“Working as a dental assistant has given me the opportunity to discover I really can do more in the dental field,” says Andrade. “I feel DANB certification will open up more opportunities for me in the future.”
Marks agrees. “My goal as a dental assistant is to be as successful as I can be,” she says. “I’m focused on dental assisting first, and I’m excited to see where that takes me as a DANB certificant.”