4 Easy Dental Office Assistant Professional Development Opportunities

There is a lot more to being a Dental Business Assistant than answering phones and scheduling patients. It is a constant learning process and there are several ways to improve your skills that will not only make you a more valuable employee but will also raise your self-confidence.

Growth and Changes in the Profession

One thing to always remember about the profession is the learning never stops. Dentistry has evolved so much just in the 40 plus years I have been practicing. When I started out, we only wore a mask and gloves during oral surgery! There was a reason we were referred as “wet finger” assistants. Infection control knowledge has expanded beyond anything I would have ever imagined back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Today I will not sit at my desk without a scrub jacket and mask. Times have definitely changed.

There are 4 organizations that will help you on your career development: American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), and American Dental Association (ADA). Let’s review each organization and what they have to offer for the profession.

Organizations to Grow In Professional Development

The ADAA is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to the profession. Started in 1924 by Juliette Southard, the ADAA has grown from a social organization to the professional organization it is today. If you are interested in a great article, read Why Is a Dental Office Manager Necessary?  written by Juliette Southard. This article was written almost 100 years ago and is somewhat stereotypical of the time, but it does show the value of the business office team even today.

The ADAA is open to all team members, not just assistants. The ADAA leads the way in legislative activities for the entire country. They work with other organizations to improve the profession for all of us. When Pennsylvania was looking to expand the scope of practice for Expanded Function Dental Assistants, the ADAA was instrumental in helping us work through the legislative process.

The Executive Director of the ADAA and the Legislative Committee chair held a telephone conference call with one of the Pennsylvania State Representatives to lay the groundwork. That representative then coached me to prepare for my testimony before a Pennsylvania Congressional Sub-committee hearing to change the scope of practice and add a dental assistant to the Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry. The ADAA and PDAA worked closely with the Pennsylvania Academy of General Dentistry (PAGD), The PDA and the PDHA to gain support of our legislation. It took 4 years, but our Bill passed! None of this would have been possible without the help of all organized dentistry.

This action was a major development in the recognition and advancement in Pennsylvania. As part of your membership in the ADAA, you are eligible to take FREE online continuing education courses. They offer numerous courses designed especially for the dental business office staff that will help you become the best team member you can be. There are Business Fellowship and Mastership credentials you can work towards. These require 300 hours of continuing education in clinical and business specific topics.  It is challenging but extremely rewarding. This is a way to show your employer your commitment to the profession. There is an entire section on the ADAA website explaining the Fellowship/Mastership programs.

The Dental Assisting National Board develops the examinations that are recognized by several State Boards. In Pennsylvania, the DANB Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam is required to take dental x-rays. It is not uncommon for office staff to be x-ray certified. At one time DANB offered the Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA) examination, credentials that I proudly hold.

DANB is consulting with the ADAA and AADOM to update the materials in this exam to make it more relative to the ever-changing profession. DANB, in conjunction with the DALE Foundation, offers dental business office training courses and exams. More information about DANB and the DALE Foundation can be found on their website.

The American Association of Dental Office Managers is a relatively new organization established in 2005. This group is open to all front office staff, not just managers. They have numerous resources designed especially for the team. Just like the ADAA, the AADOM also offers a Fellowship program. However, you must be in the profession for three years before you can begin the process. AADOM Fellowship requires 31 hours of continuing education from a specific set of courses and then 12 hours every year thereafter to maintain your Fellowship status. One of the best features of AADOM is they offer a “test drive” of their membership. Visit their website for information on this free offer.

When you are ready to challenge yourself, check out the Coding Certification offered by the American Dental Association. I wrote about this certification in the August chat board discussion just in case you missed it. The ADA sets the codes used by insurance companies to reimburse dentists for treatment provided to patients. Included in this course is the Current Dental Terminology (CDT) code book, the CDT coding companion training guide, and CDT app for your office computer or cell phone.

This course is more expensive than most but considering you get the coding books with the course, and 4 hours of continuing education credit, it is well worth the investment. There is a cost savings if your dentist is an ADA member. I plan on going for this certification as soon as the CDT 2022 book is available. Anyone up for the challenge with me?

Career development and advanced certifications are a lot of work. It takes dedication and commitment to work through all the course material but if you want to advance in your career then seek out these professional development opportunities.


Colette Jesikiewicz CDPMA, FADAA

Colette Jesikiewicz joined our Blackstone team in 2020. She is a graduate of the Expanded Function Dental Assisting program at Luzerne County Community College, Nanticoke, PA. Mrs. Jesikiewicz received her national accreditation as a Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator from the Dental Assisting National Board and her Fellowship in Dental Business Management from the American Dental Assistants Association. Her past experience in the profession includes chairside assisting, receptionist and office manager. She currently holds the position of Dental Administrative Assistant at Fortis Institute, Scranton, PA. and Administrative Service Coordinator for the DentalCare program at Jewish Family Service, Scranton, PA.  She looks forward to guiding students through their training in our Dental Office Assistant program.


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