Frequently Asked Questions

Topics

Continuing Education
Is continuing education required for dental assistants?

No. Law does not require continuing education for dental assistants. (RCW 18.260)

General
Do I need to have a CPR/BLS certification?

Yes. Dentists and dental staff providing direct patient care in an in-office or outpatient setting must hold a current and valid healthcare provider basic life support (BLS) certification. Dental staff providing direct patient care include: licensed dentists, licensed dental hygienists, licensed expanded function dental auxiliaries, certified dental anesthesia assistants and registered dental assistants. If you're newly hired, you must obtain the required certification within 45 days from the date hired. (WAC 246-817-720)

How do I request a duplicate/replacement of my registration?

See the fee page to find the correct payment. Send a check or money order to the Department of Health. Please note that you are requesting a duplicate registration and remember to include your credential number.

If it's within 90 days of your expiration date, you may renew your registration and receive an updated copy.

How do I update my mailing address?

All address change requests must be sent in writing. If you are renewing and have received your renewal notice, please complete the address change request on the back of the card.

If you're not renewing or don't have your renewal card, complete the Address Change Form. Be sure to hit "Email" at the bottom of the form to submit your changes.

You must have your current mailing address. Otherwise, we cannot send you the courtesy renewal reminder.

The U.S. Postal Service will not forward state mail so it is your responsibility to inform the Customer Service Office of an address change.

What do I need to change my name on my registration?

Please mail or fax a copy of your certified marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order showing your name change to the Customer Service Office. You will not be sent a credential showing your new name until your next renewal has been processed. You may also include this request when submitting your renewal.

If I'm active military, how may I request military status?
  • Military service members retain their credentials during active duty status and are allowed to practice throughout the state.
  • We'll place the service member on "active military" status when he or she provides a copy of the service orders to our Customer Service Office.
  • We don't send a renewal card to these credential holders. They must send current orders to the Customer Service Office each year before the credential expires.
  • We don't charge renewal fees to credential holders in active military status.
  • If the credential holder doesn't submit current orders on the renewal, the credential expires.
  • We'll change a military status to active when the service member:
    • Provides a copy of the discharge papers (DD214).
    • Pays the renewal fee.
  • Continuing education hours, if applicable, are not required upon return to active status.
  • Regular renewal fees and continuing education requirements apply after the first post-discharge update.
  • Military service members have a six-month period to update their credential after discharge.
  • If the credential holder doesn't renew within six months after discharge, the credential expires.
  • If the credential holder later asks to renew the credential, the regular process applies, including penalties.
I'm a sterilization technician. Do I have to register?

Yes. You are a dental assistant. Dental assistants provide supportive services. Supportive services means services related to clinical functions in direct relationship to treating a patient. The commission agreed that sterilizing dental tools and equipment is a clinical function and individuals providing this supportive service are dental assistants and must register.

I'm an orthodontic assistant. Do I have to register?

Yes. You are a dental assistant. Dental assistants provide supportive services. Supportive services means services related to clinical functions in direct relationship to treating a patient.

I'm a dental assistant student. Do I have to register?

No. Dental assisting school/program students do not have to register. (RCW 18.260.110) Once you graduate, you must have an active registration before beginning work.

I'm starting an externship. Do I have to register?

No. Externships are usually part of a dental assisting school/program. If you're still considered a dental assistant student, you don't have to register. If you're not considered a dental assistant student, you must have an active registration before beginning work.

I only provide data entry/note charting for the dentist. Do I have to register?

No. You're not required to register as a dental assistant if your task is data entry and note charting.

Does a dental assistant have to post their registration?

Yes. Law requires all dental staff to post their credential, whether they have a license, certification or registration (WAC 246-817-301).

Do all dental offices have to be paperless?

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act requires that healthcare providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid patients/payments must change from paper to electronic patient records by 2015. This act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and has an impact on HIPAA as well. More information about this requirements is on HealthIT.gov.

Registration
Do I have to register to be able to work as a dental assistant?

Yes. As of July 1, 2008, you must have an active registration to practice in Washington State.

How do I apply to become a registered dental assistant?

You may find an application on our Applications and Forms webpage.

What are the requirements to become registered as a dental assistant?

Pay the application fee.

Renewals
How do I renew my registration?

Dental assistants must renew their registration annually on or before their birthday. They're required to submit the appropriate fee with each renewal cycle. Please keep your address updated to receive courtesy renewal notices.

Online

By mail

In person

Come to our Tumwater location.

Frequently asked questions about renewals

Avoid an expired registration

Do not let your registration expire. You must make sure we have your renewal before it expires. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to practice. A timely postmark on your renewal will not prevent an expired registration.

How long will it take to process my renewal?

If you send it by mail it will take about two weeks to update. If you walk the payment in to the front counter it'll take about three to seven business days. This saves mail time and you'll receive verification during the visit. If you complete your renewal online, the updated information will show on our provider/facility search.

Our goal is to process all renewals within seven business days after we receive them. This includes payment and processing time.

How do I know my expiration date?

Your registration lists the expiration date. It's your birthday. You may also look at our provider/facility search to see your expiration date.

Scope of Practice
May a dental assistant perform a blood glucose screening?

Yes. Law lists taking and recording blood pressure and vital signs as allowable under close supervision. (WAC 246-817-520 (28)). The commission determined blood glucose screening is a vital sign. Licensed dentists should ensure appropriate referrals are made to a medical provider when results of a blood glucose screening warrants it.

Under which type of supervision must a dental assistant work? What is close supervision?

"Close supervision" means that a licensed dentist whose patient is being treated has personally diagnosed the condition to be treated and has personally authorized the procedures to be performed. A dentist shall be physically present in the treatment facility while the procedures are performed. Close supervision does not require a dentist to be physically present in the operatory; however, an attending dentist must be in the treatment facility and be capable of responding immediately in the event of an emergency.

What can a dental assistant do?

State law lists allowable and prohibited tasks. (WAC 246-817-520 and 246-817-540) It lists 38 allowable tasks and 23 prohibited tasks.

May a dental assistant use an ultra sonic scaler?

Acts that may not be performed by a registered dental assistant include any scaling procedure. The prohibited acts listed in law do not limit the use of an ultrasonic scaler for removal of excess cement. (WAC 246-817-540) Use of instruments should always be within appropriate standard of care.

May a dental assistant place space maintainers, a temporary oral device?

Law does not list placing a space maintainer, a temporary oral device, as an allowable task. (WAC 246-817-520)

May a dental assistant remove a healing collar for an implant, then try-in the abutment?

Yes. If it is not a permanent seating (a torque wrench is generally used by the dentists to seat an implant abutment or crown with a screw) and only a preliminary try-in, it is an acceptable as a delegable task.

May a dental assistant adjust for bite?

Acts that may not be performed by a registered dental assistant includes intra-orally adjust occlusal of inlays, crowns, and bridges and intra-orally finish margins of inlays, crowns, and bridges. (WAC 246-817-540)

May a dental assistant adjust crowns and bridges outside the patient mouth prior to permanent cementation by the dentist?

Yes. Law does not list adjustments outside of the mouth as a prohibited task.(WAC 246-817-540)

May a dental assistant start a patient on nitrous oxide if directed by the dentist?

Yes. Law lists assist in the administration of inhalation minimal sedation (nitrous oxide) analgesia or sedation as an allowable task. (WAC 246-817-520)

May a dental assistant apply fluoride varnish?

Yes. Law lists fluoride treatments as an allowable task. (WAC 246-817-520)

May a dental assistant mix, apply and trim away excess temporary soft denture reline material?

No. Law lists insertion and post-insertion adjustments of dentures as a prohibited task. (WAC 246-817-540)

What dental tasks can a dentist delegate to registered dental assistants?

State law lists allowable and prohibited tasks (WAC 246-817-520 and 246-817-540). See dentist delegation chart (PDF).

May dentists delegate silver diamine fluoride to dental hygienists, dental assistants, or expanded function dental auxiliaries?

Yes. Silver diamine fluoride is a fluoride preventative treatment. WAC 246-817-550 (5) and 246-817-525 (6)(b) allows dentists to delegate under general supervision to licensed dental hygienists and licensed expanded function dental auxiliaries. WAC 246-817-520 (f) allows dentists to delegate under close supervision to registered dental assistants.

May a dental assistant take radiographs (X-rays)?

Yes. WAC 246-817-520 allows dentists to delegate under close supervision "place, expose, and process radiographs" to registered dental assistants. Additional credentials are not necessary for dental assistants to take X-rays in a dental office.

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