Dental Assistant Requirements in Tennessee


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 Tennessee 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 TN.

Levels of Dental Assistants in Tennessee

There are three levels of dental assistants in TN:

  1. Practical Dental Assistant
  2. Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)
  3. Registered Dental Assistant Qualified to Perform Expanded Functions

1. Practical Dental Assistant

A Practical Dental Assistant is an auxiliary employee of a licensed dentist who is receiving practical chairside dental assisting training from a licensed dentist or is a dental student in an educational program accredited by CODA.

2. Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)

Registered Dental Assistants in Tennessee may perform the procedures listed for this level in the state dental practice act. To register as an RDA, one must:

3. Registered Dental Assistant Qualified to Perform Expanded Functions

To perform expanded functions in TN, Registered Dental Assistants (RDAs) must earn state certification by completing the following requirements for each of the desired expanded functions:

Perform coronal polishing procedures:

  • Successfully complete a Tennessee Board-approved coronal polishing course, including both a written and clinical exam (to qualify for the course, an individual must be an RDA in TN), or complete a CODA-accredited dental assisting program that included coronal polishing in the curriculum, AND
  • Receive a certificate in coronal polishing from the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

Apply sealants:

Monitor nitrous oxide:

  • Successfully complete a Tennessee Board-approved nitrous oxide monitoring course (to qualify, one must be a current RDA), or be enrolled in a CODA-accredited or Tennessee Board-approved program that offers such a course as part of its curriculum, AND
  • Receive a certificate in monitoring nitrous oxide from the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

Perform restorative and/or prosthetic functions:

  • Have a minimum of two years of continuous, full-time registered dental assisting employment in the three years prior to enrolling in a course, AND
  • Complete a TN Board-approved certification courseAND
  • Receive a certificate in restorative and/or prosthetic functions from the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

Expose dental radiographs:

  • See the section below on Radiography Requirements

Note: RDAs who have successfully completed a comparable training program in expanded functions in another state may be eligible to apply directly to the Tennessee Board of Dentistry for an expanded functions certificate without additional training. The expanded functions course must have been approved by the dental board in the other state and the Tennessee Board of Dentistry consultant must determine that the course is equivalent to the TN Board-approved course. The information regarding the content of the course and proof of completion must be sent directly from the course provider to the Board’s administrative office. If a certification or permit was issued by the other state, verification of the certificate or permit must be received directly from the other board. For more information, contact the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

Tennessee Radiography Requirements

To legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist in TN, a dental assistant must hold a certificate in dental radiology from the Tennessee Board of Dentistry.

A dental assistant must:

Photo by Kelly

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.