How to Become a Registered Dental Assistant

Alert: Unlicensed dental assistants are not allowed to perform the following duties in California:

  • Coronal Polishing
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants
  • Ultrasonic Scaling

A license or permit is required to perform these duties. Please review the Table of Permitted Duties for Dental Assistants, Orthodontic Assistants, Dental Sedation Assistants, Registered Dental Assistants (RDAs), and Registered Dental Assistants in Extended Functions (RDAEFs).

All licensees are responsible for understanding and following the laws and regulations that govern their practice. Violations can result in license denial or discipline, as well as criminal prosecution. For more information, please visit the Required and Prohibited Conduct page of our website.

Requirements to obtain an RDA License

RDAs with credentials from other states may not practice in California through reciprocity. All persons who perform the functions of an RDA in California must complete the licensure process described below.

  • Submit a completed Application for Registered Dental Assistant Examination and Licensure as described in the Application section below.
  • Pay the nonrefundable application fee of $120.
  • Provide documentation of completing one of the three pathways to licensure listed in the Pathway section below.
  • Provide documentation of completing all courses listed in the Required Courses section below. You may also submit evidence of completing additional courses in Pit and Fissure Sealants and Ultrasonic Scaling.
  • Provide evidence of completing a Basic Life Support course as described below.
  • Submit fingerprints by Live Scan or card for the purpose of a background check, as described in the Background Check section below.
  • Pass the Registered Dental Assistant General and Law and Ethics Written Examination described in the Written Examination section below.


Applications for Registered Dental Assistant Examination and Licensure are submitted online through BreEZe at If you are a new BreEZe user, you will first need to register for a free account. When applying through your BreEZe account, select the application named Registered Dental Assistant Examination and upload your pathway document, all required course certificates, and your completed Live Scan Request form. Make your payment and submit. Applications without payment are not considered submitted.

The Department of Consumer Affairs offers a “How To” help tutorial video for the BreEZe system. The video can be accessed by clicking on the following link: Help Tutorials.

For an optimal experience when accessing your BreEZe account, use a standard computer or laptop. All options may not be available when using a hand-held device such as a smartphone or iPad.

You may also mail in your Application for Registered Dental Assistant Examination and Licensure (RDA1) form, which can be found here. Enclose your pathway document, a copy of all required course certificates, a copy of your completed Live Scan Request form, and a check or money order of $120 payable to the Dental Board of California. Mail the application and documents to: Dental Board of California, 2005 Evergreen St., Ste. 1550, Sacramento CA 95815.


Submit documentation that you have completed one of the following pathways to licensure:

  1. Board-Approved Education Pathway: Those applying through this pathway can find Board-approved schools posted under Approved Registered Dental Assistant Programs. Provide evidence that you have graduated from a Board-approved registered dental assisting educational program by submitting one the following items:
    • A copy of the diploma or certificate of completion issued to you by the Board-approved program.
    • A letter signed by the program director, on school letterhead, that includes the name of the student, course title or program, date of graduation, and signature of school official. The letter must have a digital signature or stamped seal.
    • A completed Certification of Board Approved Registered Dental Assisting Program Completion (RDA2) form. The form must include a written or digital signature and must have a school stamp or a school seal affixed.
  2. Work Experience Pathway: Provide evidence that you have satisfactorily completed at least 15 months of work experience as a dental assistant performing the duties specified in Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 1750.1. Applicants through this pathway must submit a completed Certification of Work Experience as a Dental Assistant (RDA3) form. Those qualifying through work experience can find board-approved providers for each required course on the Educators page of our website
  3. Blended Education/Work Experience Pathway: You may complete fewer than 15 months of work experience if you provide evidence that you have graduated from a dental assisting program that is not Board-approved. You will receive credit toward the work experience requirement for every week you spent in classroom training and internship, on a week-for-week basis. The program must be in a postsecondary institution approved by the Department of Education or in a secondary institution, regional occupational center, or regional occupational program. Those qualifying through work experience can find board-approved providers for each required course on the Educators page of our website Applicants through this pathway must submit both of the following:

Required Board-Approved Courses

Submit documentation that you have completed all the required courses listed below. A copy of the Certificate of Completion issued by the course provider is acceptable.

  • Course in Radiation Safety of at least 32 hours.
  • Course in Coronal Polishing of at least 12 hours.
  • 2-hour course in the California Dental Practice Act (completed within 5 years of the application).
  • 8-hour course in Infection Control (completed within 5 years of the application).
  • Certification in a Basic Life Support course through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the American Safety and Health Institute, the American Dental Association’s Continuing Education Provider Recognition (CERP) program, or the Academy of General Dentistry’s Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE).

Background Check

Obtain a fingerprint clearance from both the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If you are in California, download the Request for Live Scan Service form, complete it, and take it to a Live Scan service location. The Live Scan service location will require you to pay a fee. Your fingerprints will be taken electronically, without ink, and transmitted to the DOJ. Finally, the DOJ will send their report to the Dental Board. Usually, the report is received within seven days. There is a low rate of rejections with this method. If you are not in California, you will need to submit a set of fingerprint cards and pay a $49 fee to the Dental Board. For information on this method, visit the Fingerprinting Information page of our website.

Application Processing Time

Standard processing time is 30 days, and notification will be mailed to the address indicated on the Application. The notification will inform the applicant of their status. Applications submitted without all required documentation are considered deficient.

Written Examination

Each applicant for RDA licensure must pass the Registered Dental Assistant General and Law and Ethics Written Examination.

Once the Board approves your completed Application for Registered Dental Assistant Examination and Licensure, you will be authorized to take the written examination. The Board will send an authorization notice to your address of record which will include instructions to schedule your examination. The written examination is administered by our testing vendor Psychological Services Incorporated (PSI). PSI will email you the Candidate Information Bulletin, or send by mail, if you did not provide an email on your RDA Application. Review the Candidate Information Bulletin thoroughly for important information about acceptable clothing attire, cancellation policy, and other guidance. If you fail the exam, or miss your scheduled test date, you can contact PSI to reschedule the exam in 7-10 business days. Additional submission for eligibility, or submission of a re-exam application is not required.

Applicants wishing to request reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can contact the Dental Assisting Program by email at to request information.

Issuance of the RDA License

After you have submitted a complete application, passed the Registered Dental Assistant General and Law and Ethics Written Examination, obtained fingerprint clearances, and qualified for licensure, we will issue you a pocket identification card and wall certificate. There is no license fee required for the initial license other than the initial application and examination fees. For more information, call (916) 263-2300 or email

Cancellation (Abandonment) of Applications

If your application is cancelled (abandoned), you must reapply for RDA licensure as a new applicant. You will need to submit a new completed application, submit qualification documentation, and pay the appropriate fee.

California Code of Regulations, title 16, section 1004. Abandonment of Applications.

  1. (a) An application shall be deemed to have been abandoned in any of the following circumstances:
    1. (1) The applicant fails to submit the application, examination, or reexamination fee within 180 days after notification by the board that such fee is due and unpaid.
    2. (2) The applicant fails to take the licensing examination within two years after the date his or her application was received by the Board.
    3. (3) Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subdivision, the applicant, after failing the examination, fails to take a reexamination within two years after the date the applicant was notified of such failure.
  2. (b) An application submitted subsequent to the abandonment of a former application shall be treated as a new application.
  3. (c) For any other application deficiencies not listed in subdivision (a), an applicant for a license who fails to complete application requirements within one year after being notified by the Board of deficiencies in his or her application, shall be deemed to have abandoned the application and shall be required to file a new application and meet all of the requirements which are in effect at the time of reapplication.

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