Dental Assistant Requirements in California

By: Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA

Are you looking to become a dental assistant or are moving as a current dental assistant? Make sure to check the dental assistant requirements in California to see if you are still qualified in the state to practice.

Each state has different requirements for dental assistants, here are the levels, and functions permitted for dental assistants in California.

Levels of Dental Assistants in California

California is one of the states that have the most varied levels of dental assistants in the nation with some of the most progressive expanded functions.

Although there are four distinct levels, there are two additional permits that dental assistants in California can attain, orthodontic and sedation permits. Requirements for each category follow each section describing the level of dental assisting.

To legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures, a dental assistant in California must meet specific requirements (see requirements here).

  1. Unlicensed Dental Assistant (Dental Assistant, UDA)
  2. Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)
  3. Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF)
  4. RDAEF with Additional Training
  5. Orthodontic Assistant (OA) Permit Holder
  6. Dental Sedation Dental Assistant Permit Holder

1. Unlicensed Dental Assistant (Dental Assistant, UDA)

A “dental assistant” means:

“An unlicensed person who may perform basic supportive dental procedures specified by these regulations under the supervision of a licensed dentist.”

An Unlicensed Dental Assistant (UDA) may perform basic supportive dental procedures under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

“Basic supportive dental procedures” means:

“Fundamental duties or functions which may be performed by a UDA under the supervision of a licensed dentist because of their technically elementary characteristics, complete reversibility, and inability to precipitate potentially hazardous conditions for the patient being treated.”

The employer is responsible for ensuring dental assistants maintain Basic Life Support (BLS) certification, and that all dental assistants in continuous employment for 120 days or more have proof of completing all of the following within a year from the date of employment:

  • A California Board-approved 2-hour course in the California Dental Practice Act
  • A California Board-approved 8-hour course in infection control
  • An American Heart Association or American Red Cross-approved course in Basic Life Support (BLS) which includes hands-on simulated clinical scenarios

According to the California Dental Board, UDAs are not licensed by the Board, but they are subject to certain laws governing their conduct.

Section 1085 is the regulation governing the duties that unlicensed dental assistants are allowed to perform. Unless a specific duty is listed in that regulations, the dental assistant is NOT allowed to perform that duty.

A dental assistant may only expose radiographs after the successful completion of a board-approved radiation safety course.

2. Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)

Dental assistants with certain experience or educational backgrounds may qualify to apply for Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) licensure.

“Registered Dental Assistant” or “RDA” means:

“A licensed person who may perform all procedures authorized by the provisions of these regulations and in addition may perform all functions which may be performed by a dental assistant under the designated supervision of a licensed dentist.”

To be licensed as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) in California, the dental professional must:

3. Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF)

To perform expanded functions under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist in California, a dental assistant must be licensed as a Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF).

Direct supervision is defined as the supervision of dental procedures based on instructions given by a licensed dentist who must be physically present in the treatment facility during the performance of those procedures.

To register as an RDAEF in California, one must:

4. RDAEF with Additional Training

To perform additional functions in California, including determining which radiographs to perform on a patient who has not received an initial examination by the dentist and placing protective restorations (interim therapeutic restorations), an RDAEF must:

“General supervision” means supervision of dental procedures based on instructions given by a licensed dentist, but not requiring the physical presence of the supervising dentist during the performance of those procedures.

5. Orthodontic Assistant (OA) Permit Holder

To hold an Orthodontic Assistant permit in California, one must:

Helpful Links:

6. Dental Sedation Dental Assistant Permit Holder

To hold a Dental Sedation Assistant permit in California, one must:

Allowable duties for Dental Sedation Assistant permit

California Radiography Requirements

A dental assistant in California must be state certified in radiography to legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures.

To apply for state certification in the state of California, a dental assistant must:

  • Successfully complete a California Board-approved radiation safety course which includes theory and clinical application in radiographic technique
    • OR
  • Have passed a radiation exam conducted by the California Board prior to Jan. 1, 1985
    • AND
  • Submit a copy of the certificate of completion to the Dental Board of California

Helpful Links:

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Natalie Kaweckyj

Natalie Kaweckyj

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.