One of the most significant milestones on your journey to becoming a dental assistant is passing your certified dental assistant exam. The Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) credentialing exam is one of the most common dental assistant exams and is accepted in most states.
The exam covers a broad range of topics related to dental assisting, including infection control, chairside procedures, radiography, and more. While the RDA exam can be challenging, there are plenty of strategies you can use to prepare yourself for success. This article offers a thorough overview of the RDA exam, including content, preparation, registration, and what to expect on test day.
The RDA is issued by American Medical Technologists (AMT) and is one of the most common dental assistant exams. The exam is used to assess whether or not candidates have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties of an entry-level dental assistant.
The RDA exam is a computer-based test that consists of 210 multiple-choice questions. Some states may offer or require additional state board exams as well. Though you can work as a dental assistant without certification, the RDA exam can position you for a more successful long-term career.
Passing the exam signifies to employers that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to work as a dental assistant and allows you to obtain your Registered Dental Assistant Certification.
Before you can apply to take the Registered Dental Assistant exam, there are a few other accomplishments you'll have to check off your list first.
To be eligible for the RDA exam, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent.
You'll also need to complete an accredited dental assisting program before taking the RDA exam. Online dental assisting programs typically last between 3 and 6 months and cover topics like infection control, chairside procedures, and radiography.
Your program must be accredited by an agency approved by the US Department of Education (DOE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or the AMT Board of Directors.
If you still need to complete an accredited dental assisting program, now is the time to start researching your options.
Or, follow one of these other pathways:
Complete a military dental assisting training program plus one year of work experience in a dental assistant role.
Gain three years of work experience employed as a dental assistant.
You'll need to show proof that you're CPR certified before you can take the RDA exam. Some dental assisting programs will include CPR certification as part of the curriculum.
But if yours doesn't, you can easily obtain CPR certification through the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, or another approved provider. Finally, be sure to complete a program that includes an in-person skills assessment.
The Registered Dental Assistant certification exam includes four different competencies or work areas. Each section covers a range of topics related to the daily tasks of a high-performing dental assistant, and the number of questions varies by work area.
This work area may be the smallest, but it shouldn't be underestimated. You'll cover three practical topics in this section.
Office Procedures - using proper telephone etiquette, managing appointments and procedures, and maintaining inventory.
Patient Management and Communication - responding to patient fears, working as a team, and motivating patients to maintain treatments and preventative habits.
Ethics and Professional Conduct - knowing state and federal regulations, developing a professional attitude and appearance, maintaining professional responsibilities, identifying standards of care, and compliance with HIPAA regulations and patient confidentiality.
The dental sciences work area of the RDA exam is the most extensive and academically intense. It covers five topics related to anatomy and medicine:
Dental Terminology - basic terms plus suffixes and prefixes, tooth and oral anatomy, head and neck anatomy, and major pathological conditions
Patient Education - instructing patients on prevention techniques, obtaining and reporting patient health history
Local Anesthesia - preparation and delivery of anesthetic, knowing contraindications for local anesthesia
Medical Emergencies - administering first aid, recording vital signs, assessing health history, emergency protocols, maintaining emergency equipment
Infection Control - performing sterilization procedures and aseptic techniques, OSHA guidelines for waste disposal, infection control, waterlines, PPE, maintaining dental instruments, and digital/analog radiography
The clinical procedures work area is another significant portion of the exam. This section tackles four topics related to performing clinical tasks:
Instruments and Equipment - identification and usage of tools, maintenance, compressor, and suction units, preparing procedural trays
Chairside Procedures - knowing operating zones, evacuation and retraction, instrument transfer, manipulation and delivery of chairside materials, intra and extraoral charting, and hazards.
Dental Specialties - terminology and procedures related to endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, pediatric, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery
Laboratory - safety precautions, OSHA guidelines, manipulation of lab materials, identifying and using lab equipment, maintaining lab equipment
The final work area is dental imagining, covering just under a quarter of the exam. There are four sections covering various aspects of radiographic procedures:
Principles and Theory - knowing basic terms and anatomy, fundamentals of digital and analog radiography
Techniques - performing radiographic procedures, producing radiographic images, intraoral imaging, extraoral imaging, evaluating errors
Radiograph Film Processing and Mounting - manual processing, performing mounting of radiographs, duplication methods
Safety - safety requirements and equipment, compliance with state and federal law regarding dental radiation
MedCerts’ RDA certification course includes your registration, fees, and prep materials for the dental assisting certification exam. For non-MedCerts applicants, you'll have to register to take the dental assistant exam once you meet the registration requirements.
Before you are permitted to take the exam, you must apply on the American Medical Technologies website. This includes completing an informational application to verify your eligibility. Then, you must submit a fee of $135 to cover the cost of the application and exam. Expect to wait 1-2 weeks while your application processes.
After AMT approves you, you can schedule your exam. If you're not taking the exam at school, you'll schedule your exam at a Pearson VUE testing center.
On exam day, you'll need to come prepared with two essential things.
Authorization To Test Letter
Two forms of valid ID (both must have your signature, and one must be a photo ID)
You should arrive thirty minutes before your scheduled exam to complete the sign-in procedures. Don't be more than fifteen minutes late—otherwise, you may be refused admission, and you'll forfeit your exam fee.
Results will be available for you to view immediately upon finishing the exam. Your results will be sent to AMT within 48 hours of completing the exam.
If you pass, your official RDA Certificate will arrive in the mail in one to two weeks. You can also download your certified member card from the AMT website.
Enrolling in a dental assistant certification training program is the most foolproof way to ensure you're fully prepared to take and pass the RDA Exam.
We believe everyone deserves access to higher education, and that's why we offer our students options for covering the cost of tuition. With options that include paying in full, monthly payments starting at $233, or government grant funding, high ed has never been more accessible.
MedCerts makes enrollment easy. First, complete your high school diploma or GED equivalent. Then, make sure you have a web browser with an internet connection and complete your course registration and payment.
Candidates should be proficient in math and reading with suitable vision and hearing. Since hand-eye coordination, standing for long periods, and finger agility are all critical in the field, make sure you don't have any physical limitations that might impede your ability to complete the hands-on requirements.
The dental assistant certification program is designed to provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to complete the Registered Dental Assistant exam and become a certified dental assistant. Over 14 weeks, you'll cover courses that include:
Professionalism in Allied Health
Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings
Dental Anatomy, Morphology, and Physiology
Dental Assisting Essentials
Radiation Health and Safety in Dentistry
Registered Dental Assistants complete a more comprehensive assessment of skills, including written and clinical examinations. Additionally, RDA certifications are valid in many states for at least two years.
The exam application fee costs $135. However, if you enroll in MedCerts’ RDA certification training program, the exam fee is included in your tuition.
There are 210 questions on the exam.
The exam is scored on a scale of 100 to 900. Therefore, you must achieve a minimum score of 400 to pass.
You will have to retake the RDA exam if you receive a failing score. You'll be eligible to give it another try after 45 days, and you'll have to pay a $100 retesting fee for each additional attempt. You're limited to just four shots at the exam, so be sure to study extra hard before your next attempt.
Passing the RDA exam opens the door to several exciting careers in the dental health industry. Some include:
Dental Assistant - entry-level position that offers between $19,000 and $45,000 per year based on performance and experience.
Dental Sales Rep - with a bit of experience, you can enjoy a career in dental sales making between $22,000 and $72,000 per year.
Laboratory Assistant - this technically skilled position yields between $26,000 and $49,000 per year.
MedCerts is here to help you take the first step in your career as a dental assistant. Our coursework is designed to prepare you for the Registered Dental Assistant exam, and our tuition advantage makes MedCerts one of the most affordable ways to get started. Learn more about how to enroll here.