Dental Assisting National Board to offer its most popular exam in Spanish in 2024

ADA Council on Dental Practice hails move for helping to alleviate workforce shortage, reflect diverse patient population


The ADA Council on Dental Practice is applauding the decision by the Dental Assisting National Board to offer its Radiation Health and Safety exam — its most popular exam, with more than 12,000 administered each year — in Spanish in January 2024.

The board, in a news release, called it the first credentialing exam in oral health care to be offered in Spanish.

“The Council on Dental Practice and the ADA encouraged DANB to offer this exam in Spanish as a way to increase the workforce and its diversity,” said Jeffrey Ottley, D.M.D., 2023-24 council chair. “A shortage of dental assistants, specifically Spanish-speaking assistants, was created as states required the Radiation Health and Safety exam for employment. By offering the exam in Spanish, the workforce shortage will be reduced, and the diversity will reflect a diverse patient population.”

“As we face workforce shortages in all levels of the workforce, the ADA and Council on Dental Practice are encouraged by DANB listening to our concerns to reduce the barriers to employment and increase inclusivity into our workforce,” said council member David L. Fried, D.M.D. “In Connecticut, dental assistants are required to pass radiology and infection control examinations in order to be qualified to perform their duties.”

Dr. Fried said because of the DANB examination only being offered in English, many assistants were forced to leave the profession due to their inability to complete the testing requirements. 

“With this progressive decision by DANB, we hope to be able to renew our lost assistants and bring new assistants into our profession,” Dr. Fried said. “We look forward to them incorporating all their examinations, including infection control, into a bilingual platform and expanding it into other languages including Polish, Mandarin and Portuguese.”

According to the board, 22% of Radiation Health and Safety exam applicants are fluent in Spanish, and 38 states and Washington, D.C., recognize or require DANB exams or certifications for dental assistants. 

Frank Maggio, D. D.S., a past member of the ADA Board of Trustees who now sits on DANB’s board, said that a strong dental team and positive patient experience rely on qualified dental assistants.

“Fostering diversity among dental professionals can improve oral health, especially across diverse patient populations,” Dr. Maggio said. “Empowering Spanish-speaking dental assistants to pursue the Radiation Health and Safety exam certificate will bolster dental teams and the patients they serve. This initiative will open doors to a more inclusive dental community, a more diverse and knowledgeable dental assistant workforce and greater access to quality dental care for all.”

The board worked with exam translation consultants and subject matter experts, including leaders from the Hispanic Dental Association, to ensure the accuracy of translation into modern Spanish.

The Radiation Health and Safety exam in English and Spanish both follow the same exam outline, use the same question bank, have the same pass point and have been constructed based on the same psychometrically valid principles, according to the board.

The application will be available on DANB’s website in January. The process will be the same as applying for the RHS exam in English.

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