Dental Radiation Certification and Certificate Program Info

Get information on certificate programs in dental radiation. Read on to find out about state certification requirements, as well as program prerequisites and coursework.

Essential Information

In addition to possessing a dental assistant degree, some states require dental assistants who use radiography procedures or X-ray equipment to hold a Certificate in Dental Radiation. Individuals interested in pursuing such a career need to understand the correct ways to operate dental X-ray equipment before they can gain the certification necessary to use radiation in the field.

A Certificate in Dental Radiation program is often offered through community or vocational colleges, and it provides individuals with the practical knowledge necessary to operate radiography equipment under the supervision of licensed dentists. Often, dental radiation courses are offered through comprehensive dental assistant certificate or degree programs, in which case graduates have already fulfilled the requirements necessary to gain state certification.

Dental radiation certificate programs provide a theoretical overview of radiation physics, radiation protection and oral biology. Students spend clinical and laboratory hours learning how to position and prepare patients for X-ray examinations, as well as training to operate X-ray machines and process the resulting film. These programs usually require about 60 hours of classroom training, along with clinical demonstrations of skills.

Education Prerequisites

Many schools offering dental radiation certificate programs require that incoming students be experienced and certified dental assistants before they begin radiation-specific courses. Some dental assistant programs already include radiation courses as part of their offerings; these simply require that admission candidates be high school graduates.

Program Coursework

The courses found within a dental radiation certificate program provide a theoretical background of radiation technology and safety procedures as well as a clinical background in practical equipment operation. Course topics include:

  • Radiation biology
  • Evaluation of dental radiographs
  • Radiation safety
  • Patient preparation
  • Digital radiography
  • Dental radiographic techniques
  • Processing techniques

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Dentists' offices and similar oral health care facilities employed about 297,200 dental assistants in the United States in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Figures from the BLS show the median annual salary for the profession as of 2012 was $34,500, and the top-paying states for dental assistants were New Hampshire, Minnesota, Alaska, District of Columbia and Massachusetts (

Certification Information

Not all states require dental assistants to become certified before practicing in the field; however, many states do require dental assistants to gain licensure before they can operate radiography equipment. Most of those states require individuals to complete either a dental radiation certificate program or a dental assisting training program with radiography courses before earning certification. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers a Radiation Health and Safety certification examination that is recognized by 30 states in the U.S. Other states require individuals to complete an approved radiology course to gain certification.

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