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Washington State Dental Association


A dentist may be certified as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). There is no difference between the two degrees; dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education. Universities have the discretion to determine what degree is awarded.

Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to graduate and become a dentist. State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent, and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of dentistry.

Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist.

Dental Hygienists

Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) are licensed oral health professionals that focus on preventing and treating oral diseases. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs in colleges and universities, and in Washington state they must take five written and clinical exams before they are allowed to practice.

In addition to treating patients under the supervision of a dentist, dental hygienists work as educators, researchers and administrators.

Dental Anesthesia Assistants

Dental Anesthesia Assistants (DAA) work directly under the supervision of oral and maxillofacial surgeons and dental anesthesiologists. They are certified by the Dental Quality Assurance Commission (DQAC) and must complete an approved dental anesthesia assisting training course that includes experience starting and maintaining intravenous lines.

Once certified, Dental Anesthesia Assistants may be responsible for prepping patients prior to receiving intravenous medications or sedatives, adjusting the rate of intravenous fluids, and monitoring patients during dental surgery. Dentists supervising Dental Anesthesia Assistants are required to be on-site and physically present in the treatment facility and capable of responding in the event of an emergency.

Expanded Function Dental Auxiliaries

The Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary (EFDA) is a licensed dental health care professional who can deliver services in a variety of settings from private dental practices to schools and community dental clinics. Besides the tasks presently allowed by law for the Registered Dental Assistant, the EFDA can place and finish amalgams and composite restorations as well as take final impressions. The EFDA can provide care under general supervision (dentist not present in office at the time) to include: coronal polish, sealants, fluoride treatment and exposing / processing dental radiographs. Licensure is granted by the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Dental Assistants

The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills under the dentist's close supervision, including oral inspection, patient education in dental hygiene, administration of fluoride treatment, application of sealants and administration of nitrous oxide (among others).

Interested in becoming a Dental Professional?