dental assistant

In DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey, 50% of the responding 2,158 dental assistants reported they have expanded functions (EF) certification.

DentalPost teamed up with Tija Hunter, a global expert on all things dental assisting, to help shed light on this data and share her wealth of knowledge around Expanded Function certification for dental assistants. Tija is a member and former Vice President of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master, author, and Director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program.

What Exactly Is Expanded Function Dental Assistant Certification (EFDA)?

An Expanded Function Dental Assistant is a dental assistant who has taken state-specific certification to be able to perform extra duties. Depending on the state, there are a wide variety of functions that the dental assistant can do to free up the dentist to be more productive. Some duties might be coronal polishing, taking final impressions, seating temporaries or even permanent crowns, etc.

Tija Hunter

Is Expanded Function Dental Assistant Certification Transferable By State? 

It’s important to remember when you achieve an expanded functions certification in one state, and you move to another state, your certification does not move with you! Each state is very different. Just because you performed a duty in one state, does not make it legal to perform that function in another state. You will need to be certified in the new state, and if they don’t offer certification in that particular function, it means you cannot do it.

Tija Hunter

Expanded Function Dental Assistants (EFDAs) Earn Higher Wages

DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey data revealed that dental assistants with expanded functions certification earn more than those without it.

In 2021, 776 full-time dental assistants with expanded duties/functions certification (EF) averaged $2.67 more per hour than 790 full-time dental assistants without EF.

  • Average EF hourly wage = $23.70 
  • Average non-EF hourly wage = $21.03

How much does $2.67 per hour add up over the course of the year? The answer for many dental assistants is likely:

  • 36 hours x 50 weeks x $2.67 = $4,806

How Do Wages Compare in General Practices Versus Specialty Practices?

Over 100 dental assistants working in each of two specialties: pediatric dentistry and orthodontics responded to DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey

Using that data, we compared the average hourly wages of responding dental assistants in general, pediatric, and orthodontic practices. We found that EFDAs in orthodontic practices earn $0.40 more an hour than EFDAs in general practices. Additionally, they earn $1.34 more than EFDAs in pediatric practices. However, they earn $3.19 more than dental assistants working in orthodontic practices without EF certification.

  • Orthodontic EFDAs average $3.19 more per hour than non-EF orthodontic assistants.

Are Higher Earnings All That Matter? 

When making career decisions, dental assistants have more to consider than if they earn more with EF certification. “I always tell dental assistants they need to think about a benefits package when it comes to looking for a job,” says Hunter.

 “A good benefits package can more than make up for a smaller wage.” 

Tija Hunter suggests asking for these additional things that can add up and make a difference in the compensation package: 

  • uniforms reimbursement allowance 
  • health insurance
  • retirement/401K plan
  • paid PTO for sick days, holiday pay (which is not always offered)
  • paid continuing education 
  • membership in your professional organization 
  • free dental care for yourself and immediate family

Bonus offers are great but need some clarity to understand if they are worthwhile. Hunter advises asking how often the teams or previous dental assistants at the practice actually reach set goals. Additionally, find out if they are quarterly, monthly or annual goals.

Becoming an Expanded Function Dental Assistant

If you are considering becoming an EFDA, Hunter advises that you check your state requirements for EF certification. You can do this at, or contact your state dental board. 

Many people will have an opinion on how to accomplish this, but many of them are wrong in what they tell you. Ask the people who make the laws (your state dental board) in order to do things properly. Most of the classes you will be taking will be one or two days in length. Find out where the classes are taught and what you need to do to sign up. Classes are expensive, so talk to your employer about paying for you. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if this is a benefit your employer will give you.

Tija Hunter

Learn more at Dental Assistant Guide – DentalPost.

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