If you're interested in a job taking x-rays in the dental field, then your first step toward doing that will be to see if your state requires you to be certified.
What Kind of Education Do I Need?
Most radiography technicians have other duties than x-rays alone. Usually, you will work as a dental assistant or hygienist and do x-rays as part of your daily tasks.
Some states will let you begin work in an office as a dental assistant without any formal training. Other states, like California, D.C., and Florida, require you to take some coursework before you begin your job or work in expanded functions. However, even if your state doesn’t require special education to work as a dental assistant, you may want to consider it anyway. Without a diploma, you may find it more difficult to be hired.
Talking to your local dental offices will help you decide what the best steps are for you. Ask them what kind of education they look for in those they hire. Many will say they like to see a diploma from a dental assisting program. In that case, the best course of action will be classes from a local dental school. In some parts of the U.S., those classes will need to approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) for you to qualify for a job.
What Certifications Can I Get?
After you complete your dental assistant training, get certified in radiography. The majority of x-ray technicians complete their Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) certification. The exam will focus on anatomy, radiography facts, and safety procedures. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is the accrediting institution.
Anyone can take the RHS test, but depending on your area, you still may not qualify to work in a dental office. You may need to go a step further and get a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certificate from the DANB. That’s why it’s best to always check state requirements first. You'll need a CPR certification and a high school diploma or GED to qualify for a CDA program.
Once you’ve achieved certification, you are ready to get to work taking x-rays. Remember to take a minimum of 12 education credits every year to ensure renewal of your certification.
Get Ahead With Training
More education will ultimately make you more prepared and more successful in your career. In general, you can expect to be in school anywhere from 6-15 months. Afterward, your dental radiology certification will help you land a stable career in a growing industry.