Differences between a Registered and Certified Dental Assistant

While one might assume that dentists do everything in their offices by themselves, the fact of the matter is that dentists hire many other types of support staff to offer the best services possible. For instance, you will find that many dental offices have dental assistants that do things such as administrative and support work to ensure the clinic is operating smoothly.

That said, are you interested in becoming a dental assistant? Know that there are two types of assistants: certified and registered.

Here are the differences between the two to help you pick the right role:

What Is a Registered Dental Assistant?

A registered dental assistant is someone who participates in all tasks in the dental clinic and who is skilled in all aspects of this position. This individual is qualified to perform the duties of a general dental assistant and a dental technician. They are allowed to practice and prepare equipment for the dentist and can also handle assistants and dental laboratory tasks. Also, they work with the dentist to carry out the treatment plan and are the main person who deals with the patient.

Simply put, registered dental assistants can perform all procedures that a dentist does within the dentist’s office. Some of the tasks include making impressions of the patient’s teeth, preparing the patient for any surgical or restorative treatment, and cleaning a patient’s teeth. They are also allowed to perform dental procedures, including basic ones like filling cavities.

What Is a Certified Dental Assistant?

Certified dental assistants work mostly in smaller dental clinics, and they will perform specific tasks, such as assisting in minor procedures, taking X-rays, and preparing the patient for procedures. They are also allowed to take impressions of the patients’ teeth and prepare a patient for dental surgery.

This type of assistant is not allowed to administer anesthesia and handle radiographic equipment, and this is because of the additional training that is required for registered assistants. This is why some clinics will hire both types of dental assistants.

What Are the Differences Between the Two?

The main difference between the two is that a registered dental assistant is allowed to perform more tasks, such as preparing patients for surgery or anesthesia. They are also allowed to administer local anesthetics, biplane impressions, dental impressions, and to stabilize temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. A certified dental assistant, on the other hand, is trained in taking X-rays and preparing patients who require restorations, such as crowns, bridges, and fillings. 

That said, some clinics will allow certified dental assistants to go through additional training and become registered dental assistants. However, this is up to each clinic, and it is important to note that you cannot simply become a registered dental assistant by taking a certification class. You will be required to take additional training to become certified.


As you can see, there are some significant differences between certified and registered dental assistants. While it is true that both can work in a dental clinic, the trained registered dental assistants are allowed to perform more complex procedures that include working with anesthesia and doing impression work, among others. That said, be sure to spend the time understanding what it takes to be a certified or registered dental assistant and see what’s available to you. That way, you can take the proper training to ensure you land the job you’ve wanted in the world of dentistry!

Northwest Suburban College is a health sciences college near Schaumburg, IL, offering healthcare career training. If you are looking for accredited dentist assistant programs, check out what we have for you!

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