dental assistant students

How to Become a Dental Assistant?

If you are interested in becoming a dental assistant, you will be happy to learn that this is a thriving career field. The need for skilled dental assistants is only growing as more people expect quality dental care. The State of Indiana expects the number of jobs available for dental assistants to increase over 18% between the years of 2016 and 2026 according to the Indiana Career Ready website.

If you want to learn more about the steps required to become a professional dental assistant, keep reading!

What is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant is a health care professional who is trained and licensed to assist an oral health care professional, such as a dentist, orthodontist or oral surgeon. If you have ever been to one of these professionals for treatment, the dental assistant was likely the friendly person who helped you throughout the appointment. Persons who do well as dental assistants tend to be detail oriented and compassionate, who want to help others when it comes to their oral health care.

Dental assistants serve as both office managers and as an “extra set of hands” for a dentist. While the duties of a dental assistant can vary a bit depending on the type of practice they work at, they generally perform the following duties on a daily basis:

  • Use computer software to assist patients with appointments and billing
  • Prep exam rooms for appointments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental equipment between procedures
  • Assist the dentist/orthodontist during procedures
  • Create dental impressions or molds
  • Take and process dental X-rays
  • Teach patients about proper oral hygiene
  • And more!

The Indiana Career Ready website notes that the average annual salary for a dental assistant in 2021 is $38,630.00.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

1. Finish High School

A high school diploma or the equivalent, such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate, will be required for acceptance into an accredited dental assistance school. Although it is not a requirement for admission, high school coursework in classes like biology, anatomy, business administration or health sciences can be useful in a person’s career as a dental assistant.

2. Apply to an Accredited Dental Assistant Program

At Caris College, we offer a 10-month dental assistance diploma. The minimum requirements for entry to this program are that you must be at least 18 years of age (or must have a parental signature), and must have a high school diploma or GED.

3. Complete the Dental Assistant Program

Our 10-month Dental Assistance program provides everything that a person needs to learn to become a professional dental assistant in Indiana. There are a number of important certifications that students earn during this program:

  • Radiation Health & Safety
  • Expanded Duties Dental Assisting
  • Comprehensive Dental Assisting
  • Nomad Pro
  • American Heart Association CPR Certification

NOTE: The Radiation Health & Safety (Dental X-ray) certification is the most important certification required by the State of Indiana in order to gain employment as a dental assistant. Without that X-ray certificate, a person will be ineligible to work as a dental assistant in Indiana.

4. Receive Indiana State Certification

Once a student has completed the program at Caris College, they can apply for a limited dental radiographic license from the State of Indiana. This is the only state requirement in Indiana for seeking employment as a dental assistant. Students who complete the Caris program are already halfway there!

The final step is to pass one of several approved radiology tests that Indiana accepts for licensure. After passing that test, the final step is to apply for a limited radiographic license. You can find all the details on Indiana’s certification and licensure requirements on the Dental Assisting National Board website.

5. Obtain an Externship

We provide externship hours for students in our accelerated dental assisting program at Caris College. This “on-the-job training” gives students vital real-world training, while assisting a dental professional with patients. Completing externship hours strengthens an applicant’s resume when they finally start applying for a job at a dental clinic.

6. Find Work as a Dental Assistant!

Once a student has completed the requirements above, they are ready and fully qualified to start looking for a job as a dental assistant. One thing that graduates of Caris College enjoy is the fact that we provide lifetime job placement assistance. No matter how long it’s been since you graduated, we are here to help you advance your career!

Start the Application Process at Caris College

If you are ready to start exploring a career as a dental assistant, simply fill out a short form for more information on our accelerated 10-month Dental Assisting School. After filling out the contact form, one of our admission advisors will be in touch to share more information with you, or to help guide you through the application process.