The choice to become a dental assistant can be incredibly personal. We hear a lot of reasons why people choose the dental assisting career path, and they often have to do with a childhood memory, a passion for seeing people smile, or their own positive experience in the chair.

Joel Caradonna, the first dental assistant to earn DANB’s National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification, is no exception. We caught up with Joel to learn more about why he became a dental assistant and what has made a difference in his early career.


For me, dental assisting is definitely personal.

Quite frankly, I would have to say the biggest contributing factor to my pursuing a dental career is the condition of my teeth. My parents tried very hard to put food on our table and we didn’t have a lot of money to go to regular dental appointments. Not only could we not afford it, but we weren’t very educated as to the importance of oral health and the effects it has not only on our teeth, but on the rest of our bodies too. Hard times build character, but they didn’t do much for my teeth.


It’s not just about having sympathy — it’s about having empathy.

As I learned more here and there, I could see that my problems could have been prevented. I was in a unique position of having the ability to not just sympathize with others who have struggled with oral health, but an ability to truly empathize. Helping others avoid the dental nightmares I have experienced is very rewarding.


I strongly believe in adding value to myself through education — and the certifications that come along with it.

I was delighted, honored and proud to be the first dental assistant to earn DANB’s NELDA certification. I was able to take the required courses and exams to earn NELDA certification through the assistance of the New Hampshire Health Profession Opportunity.

As for the future, it is my intention to learn as much as possible, progress up the DANB certification ladder and acquire all of the highest possible certifications. I want to stay ahead of the game as much as I possibly can and stay up to speed on new technologies in dentistry so I can offer the utmost quality of care to my patients.


Joel Caradonna, NELDA, became the first NELDA certificant in July 2015, and works as a dental assistant in New Hampshire.

Why did you become a dental assistant? Tell us in the comments, or join the discussion on the Dental Assistant Life forum