Can a Felon Be a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant performs a wide range of duties in an office setting. They include: gathering medical history from patients, taking and developing x-rays, and performing office management tasks.

The pay depends on exactly what you do and where you live. It is about equal to other healthcare professionals who have gone to similar schooling. So, we’re talking about medical assistants, physical therapy assistants, and veterinary technicians.

Opportunities in dental assisting range from insurance companies where you process dental claims to dental product sales representative.

This blog post will cover whether a felon can be a dental assistant.

  • Licensing Requirements
  • Removing Some of The Barriers
  • A Look At Requirements
  • Background Checks
  • Seeking Remedies Through The Court System

Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state. There is no federal governing body for dental assisting. In some states you can become a dental assistant by simply undergoing on-the-job training.

Let’s consider the state of New York. You can operate routine x-ray machines under the supervision of a dentist after taking a training program. You can get the  training from the state or from  the equipment manufacturer.

In Colorado, there are a few more factors involved. You must be at least 18 years old(in New York it’s 17). You must complete five hours of practical or clinical experience with 3.5 hours of lecture from a state accredited program.

Colorado gives you two more options. You can take a state board approved module from a dentist or a dental hygienist. Or, you can take the Dental National Assisting Board, Inc(DANB) Radiation Health and Safety exam or the DANB Certified Dental Assistant exam.

There are obviously more requirements in Colorado. So, if you were to move from New York to Colorado and you would have to meet the requirements in Colorado.

In New York State you must be state licensed and certified to work as a dental assistant. DANB has a list of acceptable educational programs you can attend. And you apply to the state after you have taken your exams from DANB. In general, exams are written and procedural.

You can also work as an unlicensed dental assistant and a dental assistant with a limited permit.  The limited permit is usually for a year while you are passing your exams. Understand that you will make more money if you are a licensed certified dental assistant.

In Colorado, there is no schooling required. Your work duties are specified in the state dental practice act. You work under the supervision of a dentist. Basic Life Support(BLS) might be required. You can get that from your local American Red Cross.

So if you moved from Colorado to New York you would have to get a New York state license and certification.

Removing Some of The Barriers

In New York State you can obtain a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct. This allows you to sit for licensing exams in general. You may still be required to appear before a special review board.

The District of Columbia and the following states have similar laws that offer a pathway to removing occupational and employment barriers: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont.

Fair Chance Licensing Reform has been enacted in states by a number of governors. This legislation takes away barriers so you can have an occupational license like dental assisting. Your crime must have been unrelated to dental assisting.

A Look At Requirements

The DANB is a body that administers nationally recognized exams and certifications for dental assisting. This organization boasts more than 37,000 dental assistants who obtain their certifications through them. DANB board certification is required in 39 states.

Its background information policy carries three questions that all exam applicants must answer. The first question asks if you are a convicted felon. You must answer truthfully.

Any yes answers on the questionnaire and you have to attach documentation about it. You’re going to have to write a signed and dated personal statement about your conviction. This would be a great time to say something about  having completed a reentry program. (Here is a list of reentry programs by state.)  Having participated in one demonstrates that you have rehabilitated.

You will need to include pertinent dates, the offense, date of the offense, your sentence, and when you completed your sentence. You must provide official documentation of the judgement of conviction, the sentencing order, and the termination of probation order.  This is just some of the paperwork DANB will request.

DANB makes its decisions on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of their legal counsel. You might have to appear for review by their Disciplinary Policy and Procedures. You will need to graduate from a program accredited by the American Dental Association’s(ADA)  Commission on Dental Accreditation(CODA).

Background Checks

When you apply for a job, you will have to undergo a background check. This is for the safety and protection of the patients and the staff. Some states will not let a felon work as a dental assistant.

It is up to you to contact your State Dental Board to be sure someone will hire you before you go to school. Some states bar felons who committed sexual or violent types of  crimes. If you have a conviction in the past seven years you might be barred from working as a dental assistant. But, in all instances, report about your situation truthfully and honestly.

Be confident. Studies show that felons make better employees, in some cases, than workers with no criminal background. An example of  this is in the military. Employers are aware of this.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)  requires employers to give you a copy of the background-check report so that you can read about the employer’s decision. You can also correct anything that is wrong. Before your interview, perform a background check on yourself and see what comes up. This way you can practice responses for the questions you’re going to get asked during the interview.

Dental assistant licenses are valid for three to five years. When you are close to your renewal time you will receive a form asking you about your status. There will be questions about where you work and about convictions or pending actions against you. You can lose your license if you are not honest.

Always make the right decisions to keep your license. Don’t fall back into bad habits. Always stay connected with your support systems. Seek guidance from family members and clergy. Being a licensed dental assistant increases your chances of getting hired. You get better pay and it says to patients and dentists that you are a skilled and serious professional.

Seeking Remedies Through The Court System

If the DANB decides against you or if you can’t get hired there is another pathway to success. You can get your record expunged or sealed. This means that your record is wiped clean as if you never committed the crime. You will be able to legally claim that you do not have a felony record. The exact process depends on the state in which you live.

Expunged means your records are destroyed. You may be able to get your record sealed. However, if you were to commit another crime or be in suspicion of a crime, you record could be unsealed. A criminal defense attorney may be required for this action.

You will need to demonstrate initiative—that you are actively attempting to get back into society. This can be done by going to counseling, advancing in your education, and being gainfully employed.

Again, having completed some type of re-entry program is extremely helpful toward self improvement. It is also a way of demonstrating to the court that you are rehabilitated. Felons who have committed multiple felonies or rape can not get their records expunged.

In Florida you can have your record expunged or sealed but state and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to your records. Judges have access to your sealed records online.

There are programs all over the country to assist you.  For example, Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland, Ohio, has an Office of Legal Services. This office provides legal aid and some legal advice. They help students seal and expunge their criminal records. Other services they provide are:

  • Representation in court
  • Help with obtaining certifications for employment
  • Assisting you in the job application process

Once you get your record expunged or sealed you can legally apply for any job, complete a school admissions form, and sign a rental agreement. You can legally claim that you don’t have a felony record. You can also vote.

The required education to becoming a licensed certified dental assistant can be expensive. But, the rewards are great. A licensed certified  dental assistant makes a median salary of $20.76 an hour. If you take additional component exams through DANB your earning potential is increased.

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