Dental Assistant Terminology and Associations

Learn some terms you’ll use on the job, and find professional organizations.

Professional Organizations


American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA)

The American Dental Assistants Association is the national professional organization for dental assistants.

An organization of more than 10,000 members, ADAA is the oldest group in the country to represent dental assistants. Its main mission is to promote the profession of dental assisting as well as advance the careers of their members.

There are various membership levels—even dental assistant students can join—that include a number of benefits. Everything from continuing education to fellowship opportunities are available if you join the organization.

In addition to these perks, you’ll have access to the Dental Assistant Journal, which is published on a bi-monthly schedule. The journal includes valuable technical information and other professional development coverage.

ADAA is made up of local organizations and state associations. This allows dental assistants to interact with chapters near their home or workplace. Both types of groups must follow the ADAA’s bylaws and mission.

If you live in an area without local ADAA representation, you can find information about starting a chapter on their website.

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

The Dental Assisting National Board provides information on certification.

Some states—Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington—will require you to take the DANB certification exam before you can begin working as a dental assistant.

Even if your state doesn’t require certification, it can still be beneficial to earn professional credentials. According to DANB, non-certified dental assistants earn about $2 less an hour than certified dental assistants. There are two certification levels you may be eligible for:

  • National Entry Level Dental Assistant
  • Certified Dental Assistant

If your career becomes more specialized, certification is available for:

  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant

What can you expect from a DANB exam? Like other professional certification tests, the questions are calibrated based on your responses. This means if you answer a question correctly, the next question will be more difficult. Answer it incorrectly and the following question is easier. Your final score is based on the difficulty level of the correctly-answered questions.


Dental Assistant Terminology and Definitions

Dental Assisting Term Definition
Endodontics Root canal treatment.
Extraction The process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts.
Group Practice Practice with two or more dentists.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Removal of teeth and correction of facial deformities.
Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Straightening teeth with braces or other appliances.
Pediatric Dentistry Treatment of children’s teeth.
Periodontics Treatment of gum problems.
Radiograph Image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on photographic film.
Scaling Removal of plaque, calculus and stains from teeth.
Solo practice Practice with only one dentist.
Sutures Stitches used to repair an incision or wound.

If you’re ready to start a new career as a dental assistant, getting your education is a good first step. Find out more about dental assistant schools near you.


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