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How to Become a Pediatric Dental Assistant

Job Descriptions November 6, 2012

A Pediatric Dental Assistant (PDA) is a professional who assists dentists in working with children as patients. In other words, the assistant works to improve the efficiency of a pediatric dentist in their treatment of children and related work. At times, a PDA may be required to do administrative work in the dentist’s office. To be eligible to do the work of a dental assistant, a high-school diploma is usually called for; in addition, a certificate is required. Such certification is awarded to an individual who pass a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) training program that carries the American Dental Association (the ADA) accreditation. Licensing or registration is mandatory in certain states.

Duties of a Pediatric Dental Assistant

The actual duties of a PDA can vary from state to state as defined by the rules and regulations, the individual’s primary responsibility is to tend to young patient in order to ensure their comfort. The assistant is responsible for administrative duties at a dentist’s office; their duties include ensuring dental tools are sterilized and set up, the examination room is cleaned while rendering assistance in various dental processes. In some states, the assistant is expected to apply fluoride treatments, take x-rays and advise patients about taking care of appliances that facilitate orthodontic treatment.

The Route to Becoming a Pediatric Dental Assistant

The ADA does not distinguish between a PDA and an ordinary office assistant working in a dentist’s office; therefore, a person who aspires to become a PDA must meet the same qualifications requirement of a dental office assistant. Apart from on-the-job training, a PDA can achieve accreditation via a six to twelve months training program undertaken at an accredited college followed by taking the certification test.  PDAs who choose to receive on-the-job training can take the test for certification by completing two years working at the dentist’s office. In 2002, as many as 256 dental assistant training programs in the United States enjoyed accreditation (source: ADA website,

The Skills Needed

While specific knowledge and skills are mandatory for the efficient performance of duties by the assistant, a PDA is required to remain calm in their disposition and able to suppress the sense of fear and anxiety that young patients may have. Additionally, PDAs must perform duties similar to those of dental office assistants. Such duties may require them to create protocols relating to infection control to prevent infections from getting transferred from patients to staff or to other patients.

Career Prospect

Dental office assistants enjoy great job outlook (PDAs are not separately categorized) and the growth rate of jobs projected to be above average during the next decade. This is possibly due to younger dentists who have several assistants helping unlike dentists in the past where they relied primarily on one assistant. The figures for 2012 show variation in the wages earned by dental office assistants across the United States with average hourly wages ranging between $12.00 to $17.50 (source:

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