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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Indiana

Taking a dental Assisting program is a significant first step toward this healthcare career. Indiana does not require a formal education to begin working as a dental assistant.

Choosing to complete a dental assisting program has certain advantages, including higher salaries and performing more duties.

A career in dental assisting is a good option if you’re interested in healthcare and don’t have years to spend in school. Within two years or less, you can be working in a dental office, assisting dentists and helping patients receive care.

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What is it Like to Be a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistant duties vary by employer, state, and credentials. In general, these dental care professionals contribute to the smooth and safe operation of dental practices by doing the following:

  • Greeting and checking in patients
  • Helping patients get settled in and ready to see a hygienist or dentist, which may include taking and recording vital signs
  • Cleaning and sterilizing instruments and equipment in preparation for exams and procedures
  • Assisting dentists during procedures, for instance, by using the suction instrument
  • Helping patients understand the dentists’ instructions
  • Educating patients about oral hygiene
  • Taking calls, scheduling patients, and other administrative tasks

Dental assistants without specific credentials may perform other duties the state allows and that the supervising dentist deems appropriate.

Requirements for Dental Assistants in Indiana

Indiana does not require any formal training, education, or credentials for an individual to work as a dental assistant. All you need to get started is an employer willing to train you on the job. You will then be able to perform all allowable duties under the licensed dentist’s supervision.

Of course, you can complete an academic program first, which has several benefits:

  • You’ll get a solid foundation to help you do the job.
  • You can work right away without a training period.
  • It may be easier to find a job.
  • You can perform more duties on the job.
  • You may be able to earn a higher salary with a credential.

Another benefit of completing an academic program in dental assisting is that it provides more opportunities for future careers. In particular, with a degree, you can transition through a bridge program to become a licensed dental hygienist.

The Steps to Becoming an Indiana Dental Assistant with Expanded Duties

While there are no formal requirements for entry-level dental assisting, Indiana recognizes those qualified to perform more duties.

These include coronal polishing, applying medicaments to treat or prevent cavities, and administering nitrous oxide.

To become a dental assistant qualified in coronal polishing, you must:

  • Work in a dental practice for at least one year
  • Complete an approved educational program that includes at least five hours of instruction, two hours of lab work, and performance of coronal polishing under observation, or complete a dental assistant program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Display the certificate of completion of a program in the dental office

To become qualified in applying medicaments for the control and prevention of dental carries, you must:

  • Work in a dental practice for at least one year
  • Complete an approved education with at least nine hours of instruction, two hours of lab work, and observed performance of medicaments, or complete a CODA-accredited dental assistant program
  • Display your certificate of completion in the dental office

To become a dental assistant qualified in administering nitrous oxide, you must:

  • Work in a dental office for at least one year or complete a CODA-accredited program
  • Complete CODA-accredited courses that include three hours of instruction and completion of supervised nitrous oxide administration on at least five patients
  • Display your certificate of completion in the dental office

How to Qualify to Perform Radiography in Indiana

At any level of dental assisting, you can operate X-ray equipment if you meet the state’s qualifications:

  • Complete a radiography program accredited by CODA or approved by the Indiana State Department of Health.
  • Get certified by a licensed dentist or dental hygienist who can state you are proficient.
  • Pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant Exam or Radiation Health and Safety Exam.
  • Apply for a limited dental radiographic license through the Indiana State Department of Health Division of Medical Radiology Services.

Accredited Dental Assistant Programs and Dental Assistant Schools in Indiana

For many in this career, the first step is to complete a CODA-accredited academic program. These are the available dental assisting programs in Indiana:

  • Ivy Tech Community College, Anderson, Columbus, Kokomo, Lafayette, Sellersburg, and South Bend
  • University of Southern Indiana, Evansville
Indiana University, Fort Wayne
  • Indiana University, Fort Wayne
  • Indiana University Northwest, Gary
  • International Business College, Indianapolis
  • Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indianapolis

You can also find online programs for dental assisting, for instance, through Penn Foster.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Dental Assisting Program?

This depends on the dental assisting program you choose and whether you complete it on a full-time basis. Many programs are competitive and require that you attend full-time, so make sure you understand the requirements before applying.

Many schools offer different options. For instance, at Ivy Tech, you can choose from a 43-credited technical certificate program and a 64-credit associate degree program.

Whichever you choose, it should take no more than two years on a full-time schedule to complete a dental assistant school.

What Will I Learn in a Dental Assistant Program?

Dental assisting schools accredited by CODA to follow specific guidelines, which means that most programs have similar courses.

While there may be some variation, you can generally expect to take classes in:

  • Oral anatomy and physiology
  • Oral pathology
  • Dental and medical emergencies
  • Infection control
  • Dental materials
  • Preventive dentistry
  • Dental radiology
  • Dental office management
  • Clinical practice
  • Ethics and jurisprudence

Many dental assisting programs also offer expanded duties courses, including coronal polishing, nitrous oxide, and medicament application.

You may be required to complete a clinical internship, which provides supervised, hands-on work experience.

Career Opportunities for Dental Assistants in Indiana

Even without an education, you can begin working under a licensed dentist in Indiana. If you take this route, expect to learn on the job.

You will be starting as an entry-level dental assistant, which means limited duties and likely a lower salary until you complete training.

If you earn a credential through an accredited dental assisting program or school, you can begin working immediately. Most dental assistants work in private dental practices. The exact role depends on the employer.

You may have a specific set of limited duties in a larger office, such as administrative tasks. In a smaller practice, expect to do a little bit of everything.

Other types of employers include; physician offices, government agencies, hospitals, outpatient medical centers, residential nursing homes, and community health clinics.

As a credentialed dental assistant, you may also transition to another related career, for instance, as a dental hygienist or a dental lab technician.

Career Growth in Dental Assisting in the U.S. and Indiana

Dental assisting, like many healthcare careers, is growing at a solid pace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth across the U.S. is faster than average, at 7%. An aging population and greater demand for preventive care explain this trend.

In Indiana, the statistics are similar. According to the state’s long-term projections, jobs for dental assistants are growing at a rate faster than the national rate.

From 2018 to 2028, the state expects these jobs to increase by 11%. This amounts to 69 more positions each year for qualified dental assistants.

The strong growth in dental assistant jobs in Indiana means that you can enjoy job stability in this career. Many employers will be looking for educated, trained, and qualified dental assistants to join their practices in the coming years.

Typical Salaries for Dental Assistants

The median annual salary for dental assistants in the U.S. is $41,180, while the median hourly rate is $19.80. The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners among dental assistants make more than $58,000 per year.

Those working for the government have the highest salaries. Indiana’s salaries are comparable to national statistics. The mean or average annual salary for Indiana dental assistants ranges from $40,990 to $44,690.

Looking for a Job in Indiana as a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are needed all over the state, from rural areas to big cities. Wherever people get dental care, you can expect to find opportunities. You’re likely to find the highest number of openings in metropolitan areas, like Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.

To give you an idea of what’s currently available, here are some recent job listings from Indeed.com:

  • Expanded functions dental assistant, Gillum Dentistry, Greenwood, $16 to $28 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Familia Dental, Fort Wayne, $15 to $22 per hour
  • Oral surgery assistant, Klene Center Oral & Facial Surgery, Carmel, $18 to $23 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Aegis Dental Group, Warsaw, $14 to $26 per hour
  • Expanded functions dental assistant, Indy Dental Health, Shelbyville, $14 to $24 per hour

The dental assisting school is a great opportunity to start a new career in Indiana. If you love working with people and being part of the healthcare community, check out the dental assisting program in your area.


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