Tutoring the EFDA Student

I have the privilege of working with students on a regular basis and I love it. The other day when I asked a student how she was doing in her course, she replied, “very well, thanks to dentaltutor4me.”  I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to make a difference when it comes to learning this important content. To the members of dentaltutor4me, thank you for this opportunity.

What are you struggling with? I am working on several placement videos at the moment. I hope to have them ready by the end of February. If you have any comments be sure to add them below.

If you are struggling with amalgam anatomy check out this post from several weeks ago.

If you struggle with getting a good contact, check out this post. It is packed with information. Let’s face it, if there is no contact, we don’t pass the board.

More often than not, the reason we do not have a nice contact, has to do with how we placed the band. So I go into detail about placing the band.

Check out this short video on the importance of proper band placement.

Thank you for stopping by.

Are you interested in becoming a member at dentaltutor4me? We have so much content now in our membership. Become a member today.


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Common Mistakes for the EFDA Student

Many past students have agreed that accomplishing a successful restoration on the typodont is more difficult than it would seem. Some have said that working on a real patient is easier than working on their typodont.

I realize that the typodont in the picture above isn’t what you or I use when we learn these skills but the point is the same. Here at dentaltutor4me, we specialize in teaching you what you need to know to pass your boards and working on your typodont is the key.

What are some mistakes that the EFDA student can avoid? Several weeks ago I made several points that I will mention again with bullets below.

  • We may not condense properly over the marginal ridge next to the band. This causes the marginal ridge to break or flake apart when we carve the ridge or floss.

I was working with a student recently and as I sat to evaluate the amalgam restoration that she had just finished, I picked up the floss and as I flossed the interproximal area to evaluate the contact, I discovered immediately that the marginal ridge was flaking apart. We see this often and it is usually a problem with our condensing.

Sometimes a student doesn’t quite get the amalgam condensed thoroughly enough. Pressure is the key here. 8 – 10 pounds of pressure is more than you might think. The nib of the condenser must thoroughly make one more walk around all surfaces including just inside the band at the marginal ridge. Be sure to use overlapping strokes with enough pressure while facing all inclined planes.

Your surface amalgam should be very “soupy” because it is mercury rich. This is the weak amalgam that if not carved away, will invite corrosion later. Condense well…

  • We may condense too long. There is a short window of opportunity and if we continue to condense after the amalgam has begun to set, we are weakening the final set.

Not only do we need to use enough pressure, but we also need to check our timing. There is a point at which the amalgam is setting up and if we condense longer than that time limit, we could microscopically break the structure underneath and we may not realize it until we floss.

  • We may check occlusion too firmly the first time. This is an easy fix.

Just like condensing too long, checking occlusion too firmly may break the structure of the amalgam. Be gentle at first and get more and more firm each time you check. How many times do you check? You check until you see no more marks for centric or excursion. Remember, to check very firmly that last time with even pressure under your mandibular arch.

I’ve had many students over the years say that, “everything was fine until I flossed.” If that is the case, something else happened prior to flossing. Watch your steps closely to catch what might be happening.

  • We may floss too early. This can shave a microscopic amount away from an already light contact. Be careful.

If your contact appears light, don’t floss at all. Let’s say that there are 36 steps to completing an amalgam from start to finish. As we improve our skill, we will get these steps done a little faster each time and if we floss too early in the process, we can cause the contact to be even lighter. There might be just enough there when the board examiner flosses, to get a snap; so leave it be.

If the contact looks tight, however, floss at the very end of the procedure to be sure you can get floss through. If you cannot get the floss through, re-wedge carefully and try again.

One of the instructional videos I am working on right now deals with the issue of flossing. When and how to floss the interproximal area. In my opinion, this is very technique sensitive.

  • We may take the band off too early. This may cause the marginal ridge to break.
  • We may wiggle the Tofflemire too much as we loosen the band, breaking the marginal ridge.

The last two points that I made in a previous post  are closely related and do not need much explanation. I deal with this in some of my videos as well. Wiggling the Tofflemire or trying to separate the band from the Tofflemire and accidentally slipping in the process can break a marginal ridge. Also, holding the band too firmly with your finger can break a ridge. You will want to be extra careful during the initial set phase.

Watch your timing. Know your product. 3.5 minutes is usually safe for condensing slow set amalgam unless there is humidity. (this is for one spill) If you plan to mix another spill, your timing on this will need to be well thought out. Do so quickly. (at about 2 minutes, mix another spill and condense within about 5 minutes total.) More on this in the member’s area….


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Becoming an EFDA in Ohio

I recently wrote a book that many have found helpful. In the book, I give sample questions and details about taking the EFDA board exam. Its about 25 pages and takes about an hour or less to read.

Check out the first chapter.

Chapter 1: Why Become an EFDA (Expanded Functions Dental Auxiliary)?

There are many advantages to becoming an EFDA. EFDAs earn more in wages than CDAs (Certified Dental Assistant),which can add to a family’s quality of life and increase their household income. As such, an EFDA may enjoy increased job security and greater satisfaction in the workplace. Those in the dental field who want to learn all they can and become all they can be will be asked to perform at a higher level of patient care. They are given more responsibility and trust by the dentist and patients.

When I say job security, I realize that you may need to seek other employment if you are not happy in your current position. Becoming an EFDA will make you more marketable for the next position that you seek.

I will discuss salary later in the book but first, how valuable do you want to be in the practice? Is it worth the trouble to go back to school and spend the time and money to get the EFDA certificate? If you are reading this book,  you have likely decided pursuing an EFDA certificate is right for you, or you are seeking information to help you make your decision.  

There is no doubt about it: going back to school causes stress on the family. EFDA certification requires an investment of your time and money. You must consider the value of your time and the cost of tuition and fees. All of this takes away from the time we spend with our family. Those we love have agreed to support our desire to become an EFDA by helping around the house and perhaps taking care of the kids or working more hours. They have to sacrifice in order for us to be successful.

But there are advantages once we get through the process. I would advise that you take some time to jot down the pros and cons. If you are a person that works well with patients and enjoys challenges, manages time well and likes more responsibility, this is a great option for you.

If you work for a practice with an EFDA, you may have observed this person and admire his/her position as it relates to the practice.  Learning by observing will help you make the decision to become an EFDA.

I once had a student who was struggling through a dental anatomy course. After talking with her about her low grades, she admitted that her mom suggested she become an EFDA. She did not see herself in the dental field and wanted to pursue another career path. Few things are worse than working in a field you do not enjoy. Going through the struggle of becoming an EFDA would have been the wrong choice for her.

Many students have asked me, “How much of a raise can I expect as a new EFDA?” I realize the potential for increased earnings is a major motivator when considering whether to go back to school. However, if raising your earning potential is the only reason you want to become an EFDA, I encourage you to reconsider. Your intentions will be obvious to your employers. Further, your journey to becoming an EFDA will be more challenging if you lack a passion for advancing your skills in the dental field.

When a dentist considers this request as the business owner, he or she has to look at the bottom line. They have to ask the important questions: Can I afford to give this team member a raise? Has he/she earned it? How valuable is this person to the practice? The answers to these questions will determine whether a raise can be considered.

Get the book inside our tutoring membership. Thank you for stopping by dentaltutor4me.com


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Passing the CDA exam-Testimonial


A year ago, I registered to take the CDA exam. I had not attended school for dental assisting; I was trained on the job. However, I tried to study for the exam on my own but found that I was struggling with understanding and retaining the study material. I began to reach out for help with exam preparation and Cathy M., a dental instructor, was recommended.


I began studying with Cathy. She provided a variety of PowerPoint presentations, videos, vocabulary material, study guides, verbal review material, and practice tests. Her constant review of all the material helped me the most. She recognized the areas I had difficulty with and always found a way to explain it using “understandable” language and she presented it with a different perspective. Her real life/metaphoric examples helped me dissect, understand and retain the information, not just memorize it.  She was always available and willing to answer any of my questions.


I took the state board exam and passed it on my first attempt. There were not any competencies or areas on the exam that Cathy had not covered and prepared me for. She gave me the support and confidence to succeed. I owe much of my exam success to Cathy’s encouragement and commitment to my achievement.

Jordan T., CDA

(Congratulations, Jordan- You’ve been a fantastic student- Cathy)


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Dental Assistant Success Story

Check out this story from a busy student and member of dentaltutor4me.com.

I passed my EFDA boards

I am a full time worker, student, mother of a 1 and 3 year old, and my husband works out of town a lot. I was having trouble finding time to study and when I did, my boys were always messing with my notes and books.

I heard about dentaltutor4me from another student and decided to join. Cathy had videos to listen to which were extremely helpful to me. I was able to listen to them and study while driving, doing the dishes, and while giving the boys a bath etc. She gave all the material that I needed to know in short increments. (15 min. here and there) She also had quizzes to take and illustrations that were very informative.

Cathy not only helped me pass the EFDA class but also prepared me for everything I needed to know for boards. She even made videos of how to place restorations and gave good techniques to use as well as placement tips.

Cathy has been great and I will miss hearing her voice and all the positivity that she always brought to teaching.

You are wonderful at what you do, Cathy and I wish you nothing but the best of luck. You made such a difference for me and I am very grateful. I can’t wait to start my new career as an EFDA. It will be so rewarding for both my family and for me. I couldn’t have done it without you!!

Emily W.

(Thank you so much, Emily. I wish you much success in your future and new EFDA career. CM)


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Dental Anatomy Course (intro-offer)


A basic dental anatomy course includes important subjects like:

  1. Terms and definitions
  2. Histology and tooth development
  3. Tooth tissues and composition
  4. Numbering systems
  5. Eruption dates
  6. Anatomy details for both permanent and primary dentitions
  7. Basic occlusion and malocclusion

These are covered in the dental anatomy course offered here. There are six modules with printable flashcards and over 100 quiz and exam questions to test what you have learned. It is a self paced course that some finish in a week end and others take almost a month to walk through the information there.

Who can benefit from this course?

  • CDA
  • EFDA
  • RDH
  • DDS

Literally anyone in the dental field can benefit from the course and also those just wanting to “brush up” on their anatomy.

I’m offering this course at a nice discount to those that have given me their email address and signed up to get the FREE dental anatomy/EFDA quiz in “GET IT NOW” box to the right.

***On Black Friday you will get an email (if you have subscribed) with this offer but it will only be offered for 24 hours. Watch for it 🙂

NOTE: If you are already a member of the tutoring offered here, you have access to this course and do not need to purchase to review.

“Cathy’s teaching techniques were thorough and engaging. I felt very prepared when the State Boards rolled around.” Brandi B.


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Dental Assistant to EFDA Success Story

Hey everyone,

I passed not only my E.F.D.A class but I also passed my boards!


And I could not have done it without the help of Ms. Cathy M! I was struggling in class at first, making really low grades because to be honest, I just did Not have the sufficient time to study due to working two jobs and going to school.

So I reached out to Cathy who helped me tremendously! I APPRECIATE the fact that she would take time out of her day to answer any of my questions and give me pointers and tips when I needed them.

She was always so positive and as a matter of fact, I think she believed in me more than I believed in myself.

Not only did she get me through school and the boards but she also helped me rearrange my resume and gave me tips for my interview!

I really owe you a lot, Cathy and appreciate everything you’ve done for me.

To future students, I would recommend that if you’re thinking about becoming an E.F.D.A, Cathy would be the best thing that ever happen to you if you start to fall behind or struggle with comprehending the material.

I would like to thank you, Cathy, from the bottom of my heart. I only wish the best for you and your family. I will continue to do you proud.

Kelley G.

(Kelley, It has been my pleasure to help you through this journey and on to your next job. So happy for you, Cathy)


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Tough Question for the EFDA Student

A few weeks ago, I briefly mentioned the topic I want to address today. It is an important question to ask yourself….

Are you teachable?

What do we mean by this question?

If I am a student, I want to be involved when my instructor comes over to grade my typodont restoration. I want to listen and ask questions. I want to see exactly what my instructor is referring to and understand what he or she is explaining. I will realize that they have been doing this a long time and have much to teach me and I am grateful for their instruction. Furthermore, I will recognize that the grade I earn is given to me to cause me to reach higher and work harder and is not reflection of my ability.

As an instructor, there are times when I wonder if the student is listening to my instruction or if they truly understand what I am trying to explain. The student may stand several feet away and seem uninterested in my instruction. They may mumble something and have a poor attitude. This usually has more to do with frustration in their performance than with my instruction and I get that.

No doubt about it, lab time is difficult. By the end of a 3 hour lab, you are likely to be exhausted. Maybe you are finding this time to be super challenging. You might have had a light contact three times in a row or not know how you will ever restore a tooth without “sub.”

Frustration is common. You are going to get frustrated. There are times when you might shed a few tears on the drive home and wonder if you have what it takes to become an EFDA.

I have said for years, that if becoming an EFDA was easy, everyone would do it. It takes a special type of person to make a good EFDA. A person that is detail oriented. A person that manages time well and has good people skills.

I have a short quiz for you to help you decide if you are teachable. Remember, we learn more when we are teachable and we can decide to become more teachable.

True or False

  1. When an instructor is looking at my restoration, I am looking and listening to their instruction.
  2. I take what they tell me and try new things to find the techniques that work best for me.
  3. I try my best to keep a positive attitude.
  4. I ask questions to make the most of this instruction time.
  5. I am open to trying something new.
  6. I have an attitude of appreciation for their instruction.

Hopefully, you were able to answer “True” for each statement. This means you are an active participant in learning these new skills. Skills that take time to master, but you will master them.

There is always more to learn…

I was listening to a podcast this morning. Some of what the speaker was saying was about trusting and training the dental assistant well. Dental assistants are trusted by patients and they count on the assistant to be honest about the recommended treatment and they have confidence in you. More on this soon…..


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Amalgam Placement #3- MOD-A

Do you have 3.49 minutes to view an amalgam placement video?

In this video you will see a “sped up version” of how to place an amalgam in a typodont tooth. The instruments I use are not always the best but I make do with what I have for now.

Remember, if your band isn’t placed correctly, your end result could have big problems. The secret is in your band placement. I have some suggestions for band placement here and in the members area.

Problems we face when the band was not placed properly:

  1. No/light contact
  2. Marginal ridge breaks
  3. Marginal ridge is too low
  4. Overhangs

Next week I will discuss more about common mistakes we make when we are first learning the art of placing amalgam on a typodont tooth.

Also, for members, I have a new exam in the members area called “Fall Middie.” I recommend that you take that 50 question exam to check your text knowledge.


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Always Be the Student

Life is a lesson that we never stop learning. Class doesn’t end and we don’t get a “do-over.” We make the choice to continue our education throughout our life.

As children, we look forward to spring break, summer vacation, and graduation. We may say that we’ve never read a textbook in it’s entirety and we only read for pleasure but this is also a choice.

My dad has always said, “Leaders read and readers lead.” This is a great concept and can inspire us to read more and learn more.

The choice is simple. We can choose to always be the student whether we are in college or whether we have retired. There is always more to learn.

In the area of dentistry this is certainly true. I have learned so much as a dental hygienist and EFDA but there is much more to learn.

So here is a question I have for you. Are you teachable? Do you have an attitude in class that is positive? Over the years I have found some to be difficult to teach and others to be easy to teach. I feel that we learn more when we are teachable. (More on this soon)

I know we can become stressed when our contacts are light or our marginal ridge has broken. Sometimes stress gets the best of us and this is to be expected. I encourage you to stay positive. Keep a “can do” attitude and you will do fine.

If you are new to the website, welcome. We have courses here that can help you learn material that is difficult and will put you on the path to passing your boards. Whether you are struggling and really need a tutor or just want to improve retention of the information, this site was created with you in mind.

Come in and look around. New content is being created regularly.

This week I am working on some amalgam placement videos to add to what we have in the member’s area.

Your questions are always welcome. Comment below.


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