Registered Dental Assistant Applicants

How to Become a Registered Dental Assistant

Reciprocity is not offered to practice as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) in California. All persons wishing to perform the functions of a RDA in California must complete the licensure process described below.

Application and Examination Requirements

Pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 30(c) a licensing board may not process any application for an original license unless the candidate or licensee provides its federal employer identification number or social security number where requested on the application.

To qualify for RDA examinations, candidates must:

  • 1. Graduate from a Board-approved RDA educational program; or
  • 2. Complete at least 15 months (1,280 hours) of satisfactory work experience as a dental assistant with a dentist licensed in one of the states in the United States; or
  • 3. Complete a California Department of Education-approved 4-month educational program and 11 months of work experience with a dentist(s) licensed in one of the states of the United States.
  • 4. Complete Board-approved courses in coronal polishing and radiation safety.
  • 5. Complete and show proof of completion of a Board-approved course in the Dental Practice Act completed within five (5) years of application.
  • 6. Complete and show proof of completion of an eight (8)-hour Board-approved course in infection control completed within five (5) years of application.
  • 7. Complete and show proof of completion of a basic life support course offered by an instructor approved by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
  • 8. Submit fingerprint clearances from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This process can take 60 days or more. If a candidate has a criminal history, the arrest report and court records must be obtained and investigated before a decision is made to issue or deny the license.

To obtain a California registered dental assistant (RDA) license from the Dental Board of California (Board), candidates must:

  • Pass a State computerized RDA General and Law and Ethics Written examination.

Once this process is completed and a candidate is qualified for licensure, a pocket identification card and wall certificate are issued. There is no license fee required for the initial license other than the initial application and examination fees.

Criminal Background Check

For consumer protection, California law requires all applicants to undergo a criminal background check. Until further notice, all applicants may submit their fingerprints by either using the live scan system or submitting their fingerprint cards. Candidates residing in California must utilize the live scan system. Candidates residing out of California may either come to California and utilize the live scan system or submit their fingerprints on standard FBI fingerprint cards.

Board regulation requires two "classifiable" sets of fingerprints on forms provided by the Board to complete the application. Fingerprints may be submitted via live scan or standard FBI fingerprint cards. Classifiable means that the prints can be "read" by the California DOJ and the FBI. Fingerprints are more likely to be classifiable if they are taken by a large local law enforcement agency such as a police or sheriff department.


Applicants must report all convictions including infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies, with the exception of a conviction for an infraction resulting in a fine of less than $300. Applicants must report a conviction(s) even if he or she pled nolo contendere (no contest) or received a subsequent order expunging the conviction under section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.

Applicants who have previous convictions or pleas that answer "no" to the question may have their applications denied for knowingly making false statements on the applications pursuant to section 480 (c) of the Business and Professions Code.