For the most part, the two positions are considered interchangeable.
Both professionals help dentists perform more efficient surgeries with added tasks.
However, they have a few key differences in job functions.
Since EFDAs must complete more extensive training than regular dental assistants, they must complete an associate’s degree from a community college or technical school before taking the state licensing exam, which the National Board approves for Certification in Dental Assisting (NBCA).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants perform support tasks to ensure dentists concentrate on their work.
They answer phones, greet patients and keep medical records.
Duties vary by state laws but typically include taking x-rays, suctioning, or assisting with deep cleaning procedures.
EFDAs can also help dentists with lab work, make temporary crowns and take impressions of teeth.
This job description does not precisely align perfectly with EFDAs, whose functions are usually more expansive.
They are the ones who typically help dentists during surgeries, taking impressions of teeth, or helping to create dental prosthetics or temporaries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average national salary for dental assistants is $34,673 per year or $16.48 per hour.
However, salaries can vary widely depending on location and experience level.
For example, in Ann Ohio, a dental assistant’s salary might be $43,000, while in Las Vegas, it might be closer to $28,000.
Dental assistants are only required to complete a one-year program at an approved dental assisting school before becoming certified.
Certification is not required but can result in higher pay and better advancement opportunities.
They must take the national exam to become certified, approved by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
Becoming an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant
This position requires completing an associate’s degree in dental assisting at a community college or technical school.
However, it is also possible to complete certification through the Dental Assisting National Board after completing a one-year vocational or technical school course.
Although it is not mandated, obtaining certification can result in a higher salary and better advancement opportunities.
In addition, those who have completed an associate’s degree have been shown to earn as much as nine percent more than those without degrees, according to the BLS.
Another difference between the two jobs is where they work.
Dental assistants can find employment in various environments such as general practices, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontic practices, and hospitals.
With expanded functions, dental assistants, however, most work in the dental operatory performing procedures under direct supervision.
A few, however, work in other areas such as research or public health.
After completing an associate’s degree in dental assisting, students should consider job shadowing opportunities locally or during summer breaks before deciding if this career is right.