How to Prepare for a Dental Assistant Certification Exam

How to Prepare for a Dental Assistant Certification Exam

Dental assistants who want to make the most out of their career typically seek certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), a dental assistant must pass a CDA exam, which consists of 320 questions in three categories:

  • General Chairside Assisting (120 questions)
  • Infection Control (100 questions)
  • Radiation Health and Safety (100 questions)

This may seem intimidating, but there are steps you can take to help you prepare for the test and boost your chances of passing.


The DANB itself provides a lot of good material to get you ready for the certification exam. First, it’s posted an exam blueprint that outlines not only all the topics covered in the test, but also the percentage of each category for which each topic accounts. Currently, the topics (and percentages) are as follows:

General Chairside Assisting:

  • Collection and Recording of Clinical Data (10%)
  • Chairside Dental Procedures (45%)
  • Chairside Dental Materials (9%)
  • Lab Materials and Procedures (4%)
  • Patient Education and Oral Health Management (10%)
  • Prevention and Management of Emergencies (12%)
  • Office Operations (10%).

Infection Control:

  • Patient and Dental Health Care Worker Education (10%)
  • Standard/Universal Precautions and the Prevention of Disease Transmission (20%)
  • Maintain Aseptic Conditions (10%)
  • Demonstrate an Understanding of Sterilization Procedures (15%)
  • Demonstrate an Understanding of Asepsis Procedures (15%)
  • Occupational Safety (30%)

Radiation Health and Safety:

  • Expose and Evaluate (42%)
  • Process/Image Acquisition (13%)
  • Mount and Label (11%)
  • Radiation Safety — Patient (21%)
  • Radiation Safety — Operator/Other Staff (13%)

Using the DANB blueprint, which goes into even further detail, you can make your studying sessions more efficient by focusing on the most more heavily weighted areas and the ones with which you’re least familiar.

Reference Materials

The DANB also provides aspiring Certified Dental Assistants with a list of dental textbooks that might prove useful when preparing for the test, even dividing them up into the three separate exam categories. The list also includes links to various government publications and American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) online courses for additional study opportunities.

Additionally, the DANB has an affiliate called the DALE Foundation that offers a range of online courses, study aids and practice tests that can help familiarize you with the exam structure and content. Most cost a fee, but some are available for free.

If the DALE Foundation classes cost too much, trying tracking down a used copy of the book The DANB Review: Third Edition, an officially licensed study guide from 2009 that features test items, resource materials and self-assessments. It’s now out of print, but you can find copies online at sites like

Practice Questions

A quick search in Google will turn up a ton of sites where you can pay for practice questions aimed to help in your preparations for the dental assistant certification exam, but if you look carefully, there are a number of places that offer sample quizzes for free. Here are just a few:

(Sources: DANB, DALE Foundation,,,,,