Employed to work at dental offices of all types, dental assistants in Rhode Island perform under the guidance of the dentist to make sure that routine dental procedures and administrative tasks are taken care of. Certification isn’t required in all 50 states, but the recent trend among employers has been in direction of only hiring men and women who hold a certification.

This position is a great one for those who are launching their careers in the medical field, due to the escalating need for their abilities in Rhode Island. The 2016 Occupational Outlook Handbook released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% surge in new jobs for dental assistants through 2026.

What do dental assistants do in Rhode Island?

In general, dental assistants in Rhode Island handle a wide range of day-to-day customer service and patient care tasks for the dentist. The link here reflects the typical assignments that offices put on their assistants.

The steps to becoming a dental assistant in Rhode Island

The four steps to becoming a dental assistant in Rhode Island are detailed below.

Step 1 – Graduate from high school or get your G.E.D.

Regardless of the career you decide to pursue, earning a high school diploma should be considered the initial step. With careers in the healthcare industry, this is particularly true. You can find jobs in the field that may be secured without a high school education, but they typically have very little room for advancement.

On top of that, the majority of dental assistant training programs call for students to be high school graduates or hold a G.E.D. in their admissions requirements. Take the time to finish this first step, and you can eliminate a large number of barriers during your career.

Step 2: Locate a program accredited by CODA and register for classes

The next step in becoming a certified dental assistant is to sign-up for classes that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental assisting schools around the country are governed by the CODA, who works to standardize education in the industry around the nation.

The need for CODA accreditation

It is simply essential that you complete a training program accredited by the CODA, since only those students who are graduates of an approved training course are eligible to sit for one of the national certification exams.

Online dental assistant school

As is true with nearly all online education options, online dental assistant programs are a desirable option for people who are balancing more than one responsibilities. For college students who don’t live close to a physical campus that provides the courses they want, online courses are also an attractive option.

Be advised, however, that online courses still call for pupils to complete their hands-on training hours at a physical location associated with the program.

Step 3: Graduate from the program and complete the required internship hours

Completing the accredited program you decided on in the preceding step is your next order of business. The academic section can often be finished in twelve months or less, but completing the necessary internship hours (sometimes referred to as an “externship”) at a dental office can occasionally take more time.

The classroom section of your training will probably include all of the principles and procedural-type stuff that will be found in the certification assessment. In regards to the internship section of the program, this is where students get hands-on training in a live dental office environment.

Step 4: Successfully pass either the NELDA or CDA exam

There are two highly-popular dental assistant certification exams – the NELDA and CDA. You will need to complete a program recognized by the CODA to be qualified to take either of these exams. You’ll receive the national credential of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) by passing either exam.

We take a deeper look at these assessments below.

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

The National Entry Level Dental Assistant Exam (NELDA) is given by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), and is a three-part examination. The NELDA is made of three component exams (the RHS, ICE and AMP) given in a one-hour, 50-minute timed format. A passing score on the test gives the individual the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification.

In order to become eligible to sit for this assessment, a candidate needs to have either:

  • Graduated from a CODA-approved dental assistant training program, or
  • Obtained equivalent work experience as a dental assistant

CDA Exam

The CDA is sponsored by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), and also grants the credential of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). Students have one hour and 45 minutes to finish 60 multiple-choice problems.

Eligibility for this test additionally relies on the candidate having either:

  • Finished a CODE-accredited dental assistant program, or
  • Obtained equivalent on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

Dental assistant pay in Rhode Island

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a dental assistant in the U.S. was $37,630 as of May 2017.

The following data exhibits that this number can vary depending on the state you work in.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$12.24$17.76$25.00
Rhode IslandHourly$14.47$19.57$24.36
Norwich-New London, CT-RI Metropolitan NECTAHourly$14.63$20.42$26.48
Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA Metropolitan NECTAHourly$14.88$20.11$24.48