Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Certification

What is the COA certification?

The COA certification is a nationally recognized certification for orthodontic assistants. It is awarded by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and indicates that the holder has met national standards for knowledge and skills in orthodontic assisting.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the COA certification, a dental assistant must have at least two years of on-the-job training in orthodontic assisting or have completed a DANB-accepted orthodontic assisting program. The dental assistant must also pass three DANB exams: Infection Control (ICE), Orthodontic Assisting (OA), and Radiation Health and Safety (RHS). Candidates must have at least 2,000 hours of work experience as an orthodontic assistant and complete a formal orthodontic assistant training program, or have an equivalent combination of education and work experience.


Format: The COA exam is a computer-based test that consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and a hands-on component. The multiple-choice questions are divided into three sections: Orthodontic Procedures (60 questions), Radiation Health and Safety (30 questions), and Infection Control (30 questions).

Time: Candidates have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam.

Location: The COA exam is administered at Pearson VUE testing centers, which are located throughout the United States.

Hands-on component: The hands-on component of the COA exam is called the “Clinical Orthodontic Exam.” Candidates must demonstrate their skills in four orthodontic procedures: banding, bonding, archwire placement, and elastomeric module placement. The hands-on component is completed at a DANB-approved testing site.

Passing score: Candidates must achieve a passing score of 400 or higher on the COA exam. The score is based on the multiple-choice questions and the hands-on component.

Retakes: If a candidate does not pass the COA exam on the first attempt, they may retake the exam up to three times within a five-year period. Candidates must wait 90 days before retaking the exam.

What is covered on the COA exam?

The COA exam covers a range of topics related to orthodontic assisting, including orthodontic procedures, infection control, and radiation health and safety. The exam includes multiple-choice questions and a hands-on component where candidates must demonstrate their skills in orthodontic procedures.

What are the benefits of the COA certification?

The COA certification demonstrates to employers and patients that an orthodontic assistant has met national standards for knowledge and skills in orthodontic assisting. It may also lead to higher pay, greater job opportunities, and increased job satisfaction. Certified orthodontic assistants also have access to continuing education opportunities to maintain their certification.

How long is the COA certification valid?

The COA certification is valid for one year and must be renewed annually. To renew their certification, certified orthodontic assistants must complete continuing education credits and comply with DANB’s ethical and professional standards.

How can I prepare for the COA exam?

DANB offers study resources, such as study guides and practice exams, to help orthodontic assistants prepare for the COA exam. Reviewing content areas and practicing hands-on procedures can also help candidates feel more confident in their knowledge and skills.

How do I apply for the COA certification?

To apply for the COA certification, dental assistants must complete an application and pay a fee. They must also provide documentation of their education or work experience and schedule a testing appointment with a DANB testing center.

What else do i need to know about the COA?

Benefits of certification: The COA certification can demonstrate a commitment to professional development and help orthodontic assistants increase their skills and knowledge in the field. It can also potentially lead to higher pay and better job opportunities.

Renewal requirements: The COA certification is valid for three years. To renew their certification, orthodontic assistants must complete a certain number of continuing education credits and comply with the NAO’s renewal requirements.

Additional certifications: The NAO also offers additional certifications for orthodontic assistants, including the Certified Orthodontic Records Technician (CORT) and the Orthodontic Practice Management (OPM) certification.

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