Dental assistants in Arkansas are entry-level medical workers who assist dentists with routine dental procedures and administrative tasks around the dentist’s office. A number of assistants may find work even though they are not certified, but this is becoming unusual because the majority of employers now would prefer to employ only candidates who have finished a formal program.

This job is an attractive one for those who are beginning their careers in the medical field, due to the escalating need for their services in Arkansas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 report forecasts that the number of new jobs for dental assistants will grow by 19% through 2026.

What is a dental assistant?

Generally speaking, dental assistants in Arkansas take care of a wide range of everyday customer service and patient care responsibilities for the dentist. The typical responsibilities performed by the majority of dental assistants are listed here.

The steps to becoming a dental assistant in Arkansas

The process to become a dental assistant in Arkansas may be summarized in the next four steps.

Step 1 – Complete your high school diploma or GED

The first step towards any occupation you pursue should always be getting a high school diploma. Finding a job in the medical field is no different. Even in the few cases where it’s possible to find employment without finishing high school, the positions usually do not offer much in the way of compensation or chances for advancement.

On top of that, most dental assistant courses require students to be high school graduates or G.E.D. holders in their admissions requirements. For that reason, whatever your professional career goals, make sure that you complete this first step.

Step 2: Sign-up for a CODA-approved training course

If you have decided to pursue your professional certification, the next thing is to register for a dental assistant training program that is recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental assisting courses around the nation are governed by the CODA, who works to standardize training in the industry all-around the country.

Why CODA accreditation matters

Considering that only trainees who complete a program accredited by the CODA are immediately entitled to challenge one of the national certification exams, it’s essential that you complete a training program that is approved by this body.

A look at online dental assistant programs

In order to better support students who have jobs or have other commitments that make going to class difficult, a great number of schools are offering pharmacy tech classes online. For college students who do not live near a college campus that provides the classes they are looking for, online courses are always an appealing option.

Even though it’s viable to complete the classroom part of a program online, it’ll still be necessary to complete the hands-on training section in-person at a specified site.

Step 3: Complete course and required internship hours

After finding an approved program that meets your goals, the next thing is to complete it. Even though every program is somewhat different, it’s quite common for students to complete their academic training and internship in just 12 months.

The academic segment of your studies will most likely cover all of the principles and procedural-type material that will be found in the certification test. The externship, however, will present you with the opportunity to put everything you learn into use in a live, professional environment.

Step 4: Pass one of the national certification examinations

There are two highly-popular dental assistant certification tests – the NELDA and CDA. Becoming eligible to sit for either of these assessments requires you to initially graduate from a CODA-accredited course. A passing mark on either test will give you the title Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

Both of these examinations are explained in more depth below.

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

The National Entry Level Dental Assistant Exam (NELDA) is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), and is a three-part examination. The test is provided in a timed format, and contains three component exams (the RHS, ICE and AMP). Upon passing the exam, the individual obtains the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) credential.

A candidate must satisfy the next two criteria to be able to take the examination:

    • Completed a CODA-accredited dental assistant program, or
    • Acquired comparable on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

CDA Exam

The second major national certification examination is the CDA, which is provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). There are 60 multiple-choice questions on this one-hour, 45-minute timed test.

In order to be eligible to challenge this assessment, candidates must meet the following criteria:

    • Graduated from a CODE-approved dental assistant course, or
    • Obtained equivalent on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

What is the typical dental assistant salary in Arkansas?

Dental assistant compensation varies based on many things, but the median pay was $37,630 in 2017 per the latest information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The following data reflects that this number may vary based on which state you work in.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$12.24$17.76$25.00
Memphis, TN-MS-AR MSAHourly$12.03$17.82$24.92
Fort Smith, AR-OK MSAHourly$12.15$16.72$21.73
Texarkana, TX-Texarkana, AR MSAHourly$11.64$16.62$19.00
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO MSAHourly$10.37$16.36$22.95
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR MSAHourly$10.85$15.35$20.39
East Arkansas BOSHourly$10.19$15.33$21.88
Jonesboro, AR MSAHourly$12.40$15.23$20.83
Hot Springs, AR MSAHourly$12.37$14.87$18.22
South Arkansas BOSHourly$9.87$13.86$21.24
West Arkansas BOSHourly$10.10$13.53$23.31
Pine Bluff, AR MSAHourly$9.11$13.43$20.99
Central Arkansas BOSHourly$10.11$12.24$19.05