How to Become a Dental Assistant

Post written by: Kaia Dziekiewicz

Hi! My name is Kaia, and I am a second-year pre-dental student majoring in biology and minoring in public health. As a pre-dental student, I am always looking for ways to increase my exposure to the dental field. One way I did this was by obtaining a dental assisting license! In this post, I am going to explain the process of how I applied for and got my Formally-Trained Dental Assistant license in the state of Massachusetts.  

What are the Different Types of Dental Assisting Licenses Available in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, there are four different types of dental assisting licenses: On-the-Job Trained, Formally-Trained, Certified, and Expanded Functions. Each license has slightly different requirements that an applicant must have before applying. For example, to get a Certified license, an applicant must obtain 3,500 hours of clinical work as well as take and pass multiple Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exams before applying. The other licenses do not require clinical hours before applying. Overall, the licenses are similar but vary slightly in what the assistant can and cannot do. 

The main reason I was able to apply for a Formally-Trained license is because I attended a vocational high school. While in high school, I was able to take and pass multiple DANB exams such as the Radiation Health and Safety and Infection Control. I realize that the position I was in before applying for a license is not typical for most college students, so if you are looking for other ways to enter the dental field and work as a dental assistant, the On-the-Job Trained license is for you. Getting an On-the-Job Trained license is most common among pre-dental students working on co-op or who wish to work as dental assistants because the steps towards obtaining this license are much more relaxed.  

The Application Process

The application process was extremely simple. I applied for the license on the website but applying by mail is an option too. The application steps I took are as followed: 

  1. I submitted the initial application form with my personal information. For example, information such as my name, the dental assisting program I attended, and my social security number was required. This is also where I paid the $60 application fee.  
  1. I emailed The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Dentistry office for a digital copy of the Ethics and Jurisprudence Exam. The exam is 20 multiple-choice questions, and there are multiple links to free online study materials. I wrote my answers on a separate piece of paper and then mailed it with other documents and papers.  
  1. I mailed paper copies of the required documents and certifications to The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Dentistry office to complete my application. Some things that were required for my license included a passport-sized picture of myself, a copy of one DANB certification, and a copy of my Basic Life Support Certification. 
  1. Once everything was submitted, it only took a few weeks before I was mailed my official license. The online portal allowed me to check on the status of my license application which I found extremely helpful. 

What am I Doing With my License?

Since obtaining my license this past spring, I have been working as a dental assistant at a pediatric office. I am thankful to have been able to gain valuable hands-on experience as a result of having my license. Some things I do daily in the office include performing prophylaxis cleanings, taking X-rays, and sterilizing instruments. I also assist the doctor in all restorative treatments like composite fillings, stainless steel crowns, and extractions.  

For more information about the different types of dental assisting licenses, the and DANB websites are extremely helpful. The process of obtaining a dental assisting license is a simple process in the state of Massachusetts and I encourage any pre-dental student to look into obtaining a dental assisting license!