You may recognize Natalie Kaweckyj, CDA, COA, CPFDA, CRFDA, CDPMA, COMSA, LDARF, MADAA, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the President of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). But you may not know that Natalie has earned not one but six certifications through DANB.

“DANB certification sets me apart from other dental assistants,” says Natalie, who has enjoyed an approximately 25-year career enhanced by opportunities to be an educator and a lifelong learner.

For more than 10 years, Natalie has worked in a variety of capacities including clinically and administratively as part of the management team at Children’s Dental Services — a nonprofit community dental clinic in Minneapolis that treats underserved children.

At the clinic, Natalie not only manages patient flow, but also educates dental assisting, dental hygiene and dental therapy students in the clinical setting during their clinic rotations. “I love it,” she says of educating.

Maintaining DANB certification also has always kept Natalie learning, through earning Continuing Dental Education (CDE).

Here, Natalie further discusses the benefits of CDE and how DANB certification sets her apart.

DANB: Who encouraged you to pursue DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification?

Natalie Kaweckyj: During my dental assisting program, at Concorde Career Institute in Minneapolis in the early 1990s, my instructor encouraged all the students in class to pursue DANB certification. And I did!

How has DANB certification impacted your career?

DANB certification sets me apart from other dental assistants. DANB certification, along with my bachelor’s degree, allowed me to teach in a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited program halfway through my career. It also gave me the opportunity to serve on DANB’s exam committee for infection control in the 1990s, and to sit on the Dental Assisting Review Committee through CODA.

Also, I enjoy completing CDE, and earning DANB certification gives me a reason to do this.

Can you discuss the benefits of CDE?

It makes the dental assistant a more vital part of the dental team, through the knowledge that they attain. It’s not only the dental assistant who benefits from education, but also the patients the dental assistant serves. The more knowledgeable the dental assistant is, the more information they can pass along to the patient.

What’s your favorite way to earn CDE?

I get the bulk of my credits from attending live lectures, which can be engaging, depending on the speaker and the topic. I also enjoy giving presentations for CDE and volunteering. I’ve volunteered with Give Kids A Smile and Mission of Mercy. I’ve also gone into Head Start classrooms to discuss healthy food choices and teach the youngsters how to brush.

How do you balance CDE with your day-to-day commitments?

I earn CDE whenever I have some downtime. For example, I’ll complete an online webinar in the evenings. Sometimes, I’ll attend a weekend lecture. And I do a lot of educational activities. I speak. I volunteer. I write. For me, it’s simple to get the credits that are needed to maintain DANB certification.

Why would you recommend DANB certification to other dental assistants?

Personally, I feel DANB certification gives you a higher level of personal and career satisfaction, and a higher level of professionalism. Because the exams are not easy.

And you never know where life is going to take you. Since dental assisting requirements vary from state to state, you could find yourself in a state that requires DANB certification. It’s so much simpler to take the exam while the knowledge is fresh in your mind.

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for dental assistants?

Get involved with your dental assisting society or with ADAA. Getting involved really does make a job into a career.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

The personal satisfaction that I’ve gotten through the years. The first time I presented a live lecture. The first time I published an article. The first time I published a course. There have been a lot of milestones. Dental assisting is a great profession. It is constantly evolving. I can’t imagine doing anything else.


CDA Certificants, Share Your Story!

2018 marks the 70th year of CDA certification. In honor of this 70-year milestone, DANB is spotlighting certificants who can speak to the value of DANB certification.

Have you earned DANB certification? How has DANB certification impacted your career? Send your story to