Dental Assisting

Dental Assisting Certificate Program

More and more, researchers in the healthcare field are finding that our overall health is linked to our long-term health. Cavities, gum infections and other dental issues aren’t just painful and unattractive, but they can lead to other health problems, including heart disease, pneumonia, and endocarditis. This is why dentistry is an important component of America’s healthcare industry. Northwestern College’s Dental Assisting certificate program in Chicago can help you get started working within this vital, high-demand field. 

Dental Assisting: What It Is and What They Do

Dental assistants work in private dental practices, dental clinics, or even for federal, state, or local government health agencies providing patient care and assisting with administrative tasks. It’s important to note that dental assistants are not the same as dental hygienists, whose responsibilities include advanced patient care tasks like polishing teeth; removing deposits, tartar, plaque, and stains; and developing X-rays. Dental assistants, on the other hand, include both patient-centric and administrative duties, like:

  • Greeting patients and getting them settled
  • Sterilizing equipment and preparing the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Assisting dentists during procedures
  • Instructing patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Scheduling appointments and working with patients on insurance and payment

This is a people-oriented career that greatly increases the efficiency of the dental office when it comes to delivering quality oral healthcare. Dental assistants can also work under the direction of a dentist to set up and process X-rays, take impressions of patients’ teeth, prepare materials for dental impressions or crowns, and other lab tasks. Some of the duties you may perform as a dental assistant are specifically outlined by the American Dental Association (ADA).

Dental Assisting Education and Certification

Those who are most successful in the dental assisting field are often organized, detail-oriented, and possess strong listening and interpersonal skills. The ability to effectively communicate with both the dental team you work with and the patients is key to the profession. Beyond that, though, one of the most important elements to becoming a dental assistant is getting quality education from an accredited institution. Northwestern College’s Dental Assisting certificate program — designed to be completed in just one year — is taught by instructors with real-world experience, with a focus on producing graduates who are professional, reliable, responsible, and ethical. Our program includes both foundational classroom work and an externship that provides practical, on-the-job training to utilize everything you’ve learned. Our faculty and program coordinator work with students on an individual basis to place them in an externship best suited to their strengths and needs.

Registered Dental Assisting Certification (AMT)

Students completing the Dental Assisting certificate program at Northwestern College are eligible to take the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) certification exam offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT). The RDA(AMT) certification is designed to signify entry-level competence in basic dental assisting competencies.

amt_logo

Dental Assisting Classes at Northwestern College

The Dental Assisting program at Northwestern College in Chicago is designed with both student outcomes and employer needs in mind. We want to ensure our graduates stand out in the job market by focusing their dental assisting courses on things like how to apply infection control and safety guidelines; how to complete patient dental records, including medical histories, vital signs, and tooth charting annotations; how to assist with or perform an extra/intraoral examination; how to expose, process, and mount dental radiographs; and more.

Students are required to complete at least 48 credit hours to earn a certificate in Dental Assisting. Classes in this program 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


Driving the need for more dental assisting jobs is a combination of factors, like the aging baby boomer population, the fact that more and more people are keeping more of their original teeth, and the growing data on how important oral health is for overall long-term health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 7% — almost double the average of all occupations — through 2029, and the vast majority of these jobs will likely be in dental offices. They employed 90% of all dental assistants in 2019, with the other top employers being physicians’ offices and the government. Those who hold a certification are likely to be in higher demand because they may be cleared to perform more advanced tasks.

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

We are also approved for veterans training under the G.I. Bill® for Veterans Educational Assistance. On top of that, we are proud to support our students with things like financial aid assistance and job placement assistance.

Discover Chicago Dental Assisting Programs Today

Become a part of a career that puts you in-demand in a growing field. Northwestern College offers flexible class times and program options so that getting your education is both easy and convenient. Invest in yourself and your future by contacting us about our Dental Assisting program today to learn more.