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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Indiana: Education and Licensure Pathways

Indiana sets requirements for dental assistants who utilize radiographic equipment, perform coronal polishing, and/or use medicaments for preventing cavities. In other instances, minimum requirements are set at the employment level.

Separate agencies have primary responsibility for regulating limited dental radiography and other expanded functions. The Limited Dental Radiographic License is issued by the Medical Radiology Services Program (under the banner of the State Department of Health). Dental assistants who have qualified in coronal polishing and/ or caries prevention are not issued licenses but must display their credentials; these functions are regulated by the Board of Dentistry.

Select an Indiana Dental Assistant Topic:

Formal Education in Dental Assisting

Prospective dental assistants can choose to pursue formal education in dental assisting. Ideally, the program will provide a student with didactic education, laboratory experience, and opportunity to perform duties in an actual dental setting. A program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (the accrediting branch of the American Dental Association) will include these components and meet rigorous standards. An Indiana dental assistant who has graduated from a CODA/ ADA program will be considered to meet educational requirements for all three regulated functions. This may facilitate the process slightly.

Indiana has 11 CODA-accredited programs (http://www.danb.org/en/The-Dental-Community/Dental-Assistants/Dental-Assisting-Programs/CODA-Accredited-Dental-Assisting-Programs.aspx).

Dental Radiographic Licenses

Indiana requires dental assistants who will be using radiography to obtain limited dental radiographic licenses. Indiana dental assistants learn dental radiography as part of a formal education program. The state does not prohibit individual dentists from conducting training programs but does require that the training program be approved by the Indiana State Department of Health. The state-level program approval process includes a more thorough and detailed review in cases where the program is not ADA-accredited.

There are two components to Indiana dental radiography training: completion of a state-approved program and verification of skills by a licensed practitioner. These may be completed as part of a single program.

A student who learns dental radiography as part of a CODA-accredited program will be issued a student permit that allows for clinical practice. A student who is enrolled in a non-CODA program that has been approved by the Indiana State Department of Health will be issued a provisional permit.

Provisional permits are issued for six months. They expire earlier if a student is withdrawn or terminated but may be extended slightly to allow time for skill verification (http://www.in.gov/isdh/23279.htm). Students enrolling in non-ADA programs will want to be mindful of the timeframe in which they apply for their permit. Student permits, on the other hand, are valid for six months following program completion; students may wish to apply in advance.

Students typically receive permit application materials from their programs. There is no fee. Applications can also be downloaded from the website of the State Department of Health (http://www.in.gov/isdh/23279.htm).

Limited dental radiography licensure is based on examination. According to the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), the individual may pass an examination administered by the State Department of Health or one administered by DANB (http://www.danb.org/Meet-State-Requirements/State-Specific-Information/Indiana.aspx). The DANB Radiation Health and Safety examination can be accepted whether it is taken on its own or as part of the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination that is required for national certification. The RHS is computer adapted. It is available through cooperation with the Pearson VUE assessment company. DANB has provided candidate guides.

A dental assistant will apply to the State Department of Health for limited dental radiography privileges. There is a $60 fee. Forms are available online (http://www.in.gov/isdh/23279.htm).

Coronal Polishing and Caries Prevention Qualification

A dental assistant who has graduated from a CODA-accredited program is considered qualified for both coronal polishing and caries prevention. Otherwise the following program standards apply.

A caries prevention program will include nine hours of didactic training and two hours of laboratory training. Topical fluoride, fluoride toxicity, and ethics and jurisprudence are among the topics covered. The lab work will include topical application on live patients as well as mannequins. Ultimately, the dental assistant will need to have his or her clinical competency determined by a dentist or dental hygienist; this will be based on five patients for whom care is provided under direct supervision.

A coronal polishing program will include, at minimum, five hours of didactic instruction and two hours of lab work. Abrasive agents, extrinsic and intrinsic stain, and selective polishing theory are among the topics covered. Lab work will include the following: prophy cup, occlusal polishing brush, and slow speed hand piece. Hand dexterity is a consideration. Lab work will again incorporate work on live patients as well as mannequins. Eventually, the individual will need to perform the task five times and secure an affidavit of competency.

A dental assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program must have worked for at least 12 months to be qualified in coronal polishing or caries prevention.

The Dental Assisting National Board notes that dental assistants who perform these functions are to have their educational certificates displayed publicly at their place of practice.

Additional Information

Information about the dental assistant coronal polishing and caries prevention qualification process is available from the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (http://www.in.gov/pla/dental.htm). Rules are found in Title 828, Article 6 – Dental Assistants (http://www.in.gov/pla/2404.htm).

Information about dental radiographic licensing is available from the Indiana Medical Radiology Services Program (http://www.in.gov/isdh/23279.htm). Questions can be addressed to 'Radiology at isdh.in.gov'. Additional contact information is found in application materials.

The Dental Assisting National Board has provided a page of state-specific information (http://www.danb.org/Meet-State-Requirements/State-Specific-Information/Indiana.aspx).

The Indiana Dental Assistants Association is an additional professional resource (https://www.indaa.org).