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How to Become a Dentist in Illinois

Do you plan to attend dentistry school? There are 70 approved dental schools in the United States, and choosing the right one for your goals is vital since it will affect your career for years to come.
You should consider licensing requirements in your state and your educational goals to pick the ideal dentistry school. After you select a school, you should confirm enrollment eligibility. Remember that enrollment in dentistry schools is competitive- only about 55% of applicants in 2019 gained entry into a dental program. This is why you must have the correct information before selecting a school to attend.

Requirements for Becoming a Dentist in Illinois

The requirements to work in the dental industry vary by state and for your specific job. For instance, the requirements you must meet to become a dentist will differ from the criteria to become a dental assistant or dental hygienist.
The Illinois Board of Dentistry and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) oversee the requirements for obtaining a dental license in Illinois.

Some of the dental professions licensed by the IDFPR include:

  • Dentists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Dentistry specialties
  • Temporary dental teachers
  • Dental sedation permits

The basic requirements for becoming a dentist in Illinois are:

  • Get a Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Pass the Dental Admissions Test
  • Earn a dental degree
  • Pass state and national exams
  • Obtain a state license in dentistry

A person pursuing a specialty in dentistry will need to meet other requirements. Applications must be completed and submitted with a non-refundable fee. Applicants should check with the Illinois Board of Dentistry for other requirements before applying.

Becoming a Dental Assistant in Illinois

Illinois has different requirements for different levels of dental assisting. There are no education or training requirements for a dental assistant who performs basic duties under supervision. Illinois also does not require special training or licensing for a dental assistant using radiography services.

To be an Expanded Function Dental Assistant, an assistant must complete approved training of the expanded functions and complete and maintain a Basic Life Support certification.
While there are no education or certification requirements for dental assistants, most dentists will only hire someone with experience or formal training.

Dental assisting programs are available to help someone gain this experience or training, and many have accreditation through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Illinois

To become a dental hygienist in Illinois, applicants must:

  • Earn at least an Associate’s Degree in dental hygiene
  • Pass all necessary examinations
  • Submit an application for a license to the IDFPR
  • Complete continuing education courses to retain the license

There are 18 CODA-accredited dental hygiene programs in Illinois, which offer Associate of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Master of Science degrees in Dental Hygiene. While only an AAS is required, having an advanced degree may increase your odds of getting a job in the dental field.

Dental Licensing in Illinois

Illinois accepts exams from:

  • North East Regional Board (NERB)
  • Council of Interstate Testing Agency
  • Western Regional Examining Board (WREB)
  • Central Regional Dental Testing Score (CRDTS)
  • Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA)

Those seeking a dental license must show the licensing board that they have completed their education at a CODA-accredited dental school and that they have passed the National Board Dental Examination and a test administered by one of the above agencies.

If you want to practice a specialty, like orthodontics, you must also obtain a specialty license. Dentists in Illinois must take additional classes to keep their license current.

Illinois Dental Schools and Programs

Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine – Illinois (CDMI)

Illinois is unique in that it offers several dental schools. Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine – Illinois (CDMI) is a CODA-accredited dental school that provides students with an excellent education in dentistry. The dental school offers simulation-based preclinical training in a small class size that allows you to have a hands-on, personalized experience, and they have a 100% graduation rate. Visit the school’s website to learn more about admissions requirements and the curriculum.

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is also CODA-accredited. The school opened 50 years ago and requires all students to participate in a four-year program to earn a doctor of dental medicine degree (D.M.D.).

SIU’s small student body promotes more interaction among students and faculty. That has led to a high number of students passing national dental exams. Over half of SIUE graduates enter private practice each year, while another 25 percent choose to attend specialty programs.

Aside from the D.M.D., SIU offers these post-graduate degrees:

  • Graduate Endodontics
  • Graduate Orthodontics
  • Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD)
  • Fellowship in Implant Dentistry

The University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is another CODA-accredited school of dentistry in Illinois. The school offers a D.M.D., a Doctor of Dental Medicine Advanced Standing (DMD-AS), and degrees in:

  • Endodontics
  • Oral Biology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS)
  • Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Restorative Dentistry

The University of Illinois is one of the nation’s top federally funded public research universities and the most prominent oral health school in Illinois. Students will enjoy state-of-the-art labs and small class sizes. They can also participate in hands-on learning opportunities in community clinics, where they can put their classroom instruction to work while fulfilling healthcare needs in underserved populations. To read further on the different dental programs available at the University of Illinois, visit the school’s website.

Opportunities for Dental School Graduates

After graduation, students can become licensed in any state as long as they meet that state’s requirements for a dental license. Graduates can enter the workforce or continue their education to specialize in a particular area. The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes 12 dental specialties, giving you many options to develop a fulfilling career. However, that career starts with obtaining a solid education to set you on the right path. That is why choosing the right dental school in Illinois is essential.

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