Dental Assisting

Dental Assistant Certificate Program in Oak Lawn, IL

Good dental care is key to maintaining overall health and wellness. That’s why dentistry is such an important – and growing – component of America’s healthcare industry. At Northwestern College, we train students to serve in critical healthcare roles such as dental assisting. Located in Oak Lawn, IL, and serving students in the greater Chicago area, Northwestern College offers a 48-credit Dental Assistant Certificate Program.

What Do Dental Assistants Do?

Dental assistants provide patient care and administrative coordination in dental offices. They may work at private dental practices, larger dental clinics, or even government health agencies. A dental assistant is different from a dental hygienist. Hygienists must complete advanced medical training and perform tasks such as dental cleanings. Dental assistants, in contrast, perform a wide range of duties under the direction of a dentist to keep a dental office running smoothly. These roles can include:

  • Welcoming patients and escorting them to an exam room
  • Sterilizing equipment and preparing the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Assisting dentists during procedures
  • Sterilizing dental equipment
  • Preparing treatment areas for appointments
  • Assisting dentists and dental hygienists during cleanings and other procedures
  • Instructing patients on how to brush and floss their teeth properly
  • Maintaining patient medical records
  • Performing laboratory tasks such as setting up X-rays or taking impressions of a patient’s teeth

The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a thorough overview of the roles and responsibilities of a dental assistant.

Dental Assisting Education and Certification

Students can complete Northwestern College’s Dental Assisting certificate program in just one year. Combining classroom instruction with hands-on training through an externship component, students get a quality education from an accredited institution. At Northwestern College, you’ll learn from qualified and experienced instructors who work with you one-on-one to help you succeed. We strive to place each student in an externship that suits their interests and strengths and to produce ethical, responsible graduates who are ready to enter the workforce.

Registered Dental Assisting Certification (AMT)

Students who complete Northwestern College’s certificate program in Dental Assisting are eligible to take the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) certification exam, offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT). This key certification signals your competence in dental assisting practices.

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Dental Assisting Classes at Northwestern College

We’ve designed our dental assistant program to equip graduates with the tools they need to stand out in the job market. Students can develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as:

To earn a certificate, students must complete 48 credit hours of dental assisting coursework. The program includes a mix of online and in-person classes at the Oak Lawn, IL campus. Program courses include:

  • Orientation to Dental Assisting (2)
  • Oral Anatomy (4)
  • Dental Assisting I (4)
  • Dental Materials I (1)
  • Dental Records and Office Applications (4)
  • Chairside Dental Assisting I (4)
  • Dental Radiography (4)
  • Oral Radiology (4)
  • Dental Assisting II (4)
  • Dental Materials II (4)
  • Chairside Dental Assisting II (4)
  • Dental Certification Review/Externship (4)
  • College Success (1)
  • Professional Development (1)

For the full curriculum, visit our College Catalog.

The Outlook for Dental Assisting Jobs


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for dental assisting graduates is strong. Employment opportunities for dental assistants are projected to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030. There will be approximately 44,000 job openings for dental assistants each year during this period, as many existing dental assistants retire or move into different occupations.

Program Goals

Upon completion of the program, it is expected that students will be able to:

  • Apply infection control and safety guidelines in the dental setting
  • Complete patient information on the dental record including medical and dental histories, vital signs and tooth charting annotations
  • Assist with or perform an extra/intraoral examination and record findings
  • Expose, process and mount dental radiographs using both traditional and digital techniques
  • Perform dental laboratory procedures
  • Assist in managing medical emergencies
  • Model professional behaviors, ethics, and appearance
  • Effectively communicate with patients, family members and other members of the healthcare team
  • Exhibit professional conduct including reliability, responsibility, honesty and ethical behavior

Accreditations and Approval

Northwestern College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission:

230 S. LaSalle St.
Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 263-0456
www.hlcommission.org

Northwestern College also is approved for veterans training under the G.I.® Bill for Veterans Educational Assistance. We are proud to support students who qualify with financial aid assistance and job search assistance.

Start on the Path to Dental Assisting Today

If you’re looking for a supportive environment where you can prepare for an in-demand career as a dental assistant, choose Northwestern College. With flexible scheduling options, we’ll work with you so you can achieve your educational goals while balancing work, family, and more. To learn more about the Dental Assisting program at Northwestern College’s Oak Lawn, IL, campus in the greater Chicago area, as well as other healthcare-focused programs such as our Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing or our Medical Assisting Certificate Program, please request info from us today.