Dental Assisting Certificate Program

Prairie State College's Dental Assisting program is located in our state-of-the-art Health/Tech Center.
202 S. Halsted St., Chicago Heights, IL 60411

Enrollment Services
(708) 709-3515

Dentist, patient and dental assistant

Program Overview
The dental assisting certificate program will prepare students with skills necessary to perform a variety of tasks required to provide quality care in the field of dentistry such as handling of dental materials, exposing radiographs, treatment room and patient preparation and performing office management skills.  Clinical internships are completed off-campus at area dental offices under the supervision of dentists and dental assistants.  Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to take the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) examinations.

Career Definition
Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Wages and Employment Trend

  • Median wages (2018)$18.59 hourly, $38,660 annual
  • Employment (2016)332,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)Much faster than average (15% +)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)45,900
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 wage data external site and 2016-2026 employment projections

 Admission Requirements for Dental Assisting Program

  1. If not already a Prairie State Student, complete the PSC college application 
  2. Math requirement: Successful completion of PSC’s MATH 090 or equivalent; or PSC’s Assessment Exam placement score at MATH 095 level or higher. 
  3. English requirement: Successful completion of PSC’s ENG 099; or PSC’s Assessment Exam placement score at ENG 101 level.
  4. Must have a high school diploma or equivalent to begin dental assisting courses. 

Upon Completion of the above items, applicants are required to complete a program intent form available on the dental assisting certificate program webpage or from an admissions advisor.

All students enrolled in the dental assisting program will be required to complete criminal background check, 10-panel drug screen and physical examination and demonstrate proof of immunizations and/or immunity by midterm if the second semester of the program. Failure to have all requirements completed will prohibit the student from progressing to the final semester of the program.

All students accepted into the Dental Assisting program must complete a criminal background check through Castlebranch as a condition of admission into the program. Students with a history of felonies or multiple misdemeanors may not be accepted. Student shall be responsible for the required fees related to the criminal background check. 

If a student’s criminal background check presents a positive personal history, the Dean of Allied Health and Emergency Services and/or the Vice President of Academic Affairs will review the findings to determine if the information would exclude the student from participating in the clinical experiences required in the program and thus exclude the student from being admitted into the dental assisting program.  Disqualifying offenses defined in Section 955.160 of the Health Care Worker Background Check Act is used to determine offenses that would prohibit admission in to the program.  Details of disqualifying offenses can be found at If the student believes that the information is in error, they may obtain a fingerprint background check, at his/her own expense, to refute or confirm the initial findings.

Felony convictions may adversely affect their ability to sit for certification exams and to receive employment as a dental assistant. 

DANB will review the documentation related to each offence, and make a case-by-case determination in consultation with legal counsel as to the candidate’s eligibility to test, to earn certification or recertify. 

Please note some dental facilities may require an additional criminal background check.  Cost of all criminal background checks will be at the student’s expense.    

All students accepted into the Dental Assisting program must successfully pass a 10-panel drug screening through CastleBranch as a condition of admission into the program. The drug screen must include the results for the following:

  • Amphetamines (1000 ng/mL Screen)           
  • Methadone  
  • Barbiturates                            
  • Methaqualone  
  • Benzodiazepines                         
  • Opiates (2000 ng/mL Screen)  
  • Cocaine Metabolites                        
  • Phencyclidine  
  • Marijuana Metabolites (50 ng/mL Screen)             
  • Propoxyphene     

Authorization for the drug screen shall be furnished by the student and the student shall be responsible for the required fees. The drug screening must be ordered through CastleBranch, available locations to do the screening will be listed through CastleBranch.  The student must complete the drug screening at one of those locations. The results provided from the testing site to CastleBranch for documentation. In the event of a positive drug screen (not cleared by your healthcare provider), you will not be admitted into the Prairie State College Dental Assisting Program. If the initial drug screen is positive, the student may refute the positive results (legally prescribed substances only) and at the student’s expense, complete a more extensive drug test.

Following the initial drug screen students may be subject to random drug screening for reasonable suspicion, or if the student has been out of the program longer than one year.  If a random drug screen is positive without documentation of medical necessity, or a student refuses to complete a random drug screen, the student will not be allowed to continue in the program. If a second drug screen is positive without documented medical necessity or the student refuses to complete a second drug screen, the student will be dismissed from the Dental Assisting Program without opportunity for reentering. Any student who fails a urine drug screen or refuses to complete a urine drug screen will be referred to counseling for follow-up. Cost of the drug screening will be at the student’s expense.   

All students accepted into the Dental Assisting program must complete a physical examination and demonstrate proof of immunizations and/or immunity.  The physical examination must be completed on provided forms. Your physician must thoroughly complete the form.

The physical examination must include the following: 

  • Evidence of completion of Hepatitis B immunization (series of three vaccines) or a signed waiver. If unable to verify the dates of the 3 vaccines, Hepatitis antibody titer to assess for immune status can be ordered by the provider. This titer should be at least 12 months after the Hepatitis vaccine dose #3.
  • QuantiFERON-TB Gold blood test (QFT-G) completed within 12 months of admission. 
  • M.M.R. vaccination (2 doses required at least one month apart)  or  Titer indicating immunity  
    One of the above must be met. 
  • Tetanus or booster within a 10-year period. If never immunized - 2 doses of TD, 4-8 weeks apart - Third dose 6-12 months later.

Cost of the physical exam and immunizations will be at the student’s expense.  

If a student has chosen not to be vaccinated due to medical, religious or cultural reasons they will be asked to sign an acknowledgement that they are aware that an off-campus learning facility may not accept the student without proof of immunizations. The program will not guarantee an alternate placement if a student is rejected from a clinical site. Documentation from a medical facility and/or clergy will be required if vaccines have not been completed. All other components of the required physical including the TB test must be completed.

In order to be successful in the dental assisting certificate program, a student must have skills and abilities essential to perform the functions of a dental assistant in the dental field. Students applying to the dental assisting certificate program must be able to perform these skills and abilities upon admission to the program with or without reasonable accommodations.  A health care provider must verify the student’s ability to complete these skills and abilities. The Essential Skills and Abilities of a Dental Assistant are as follows: 

Physical Strength and Endurance

  • Stoop, bend, squat, reach overhead while maintaining balance 
  • Ability to push/pull and lift objects more than 50-100 pounds
  • Perform patient care for 8-12 hours; stand for prolonged periods of time

Motor Skills

  • Manual finger dexterity and hand-eye coordination
  • Physical abilities (including standing, walking, bending, range of motion of extremities) to move from room-to-room and maneuver in small spaces
  • Gross and fine motor function sufficient to manipulate instruments to provide safe and effective dental care
  • Tactile sensitivity sufficient for the use and control of small instruments

Communication Skills 

  • Abilities sufficient for effective interaction with others in spoken and written English
  • Ability to accurately transfer gathered data into a patient record
    Ability to read and understand technical and professional materials  
  • Ability to demonstrate sensitivity, confidentiality and respect when speaking with patients, peers, faculty and staff

Sensory Capabilities, Hearing, and Visual Requirements

  •   Normal range hearing, either corrected or uncorrected, for functional use 
  • Normal or corrected visual acuity sufficient for observation of oral conditions and to determine changes in patient status through visual observation 
  • See differences between colors, shades, and brightness 
  • Ability to discern subtle changes in radiographic density and see in darkroom conditions 
  • Ability to clearly see the patient's teeth from a distance  

Intellectual, Conceptual and Cognitive Skills

  • Ability to concentrate on moderate to fine detail with frequent interruption
  • Ability to attend to multiple functions and patients often for an extended period of time
  • Critical thinking and problem solving ability sufficient for clinical judgement 
  • Ability to select and use technical principles, ideas, and theories in a problem-solving situation and adjust procedures accordingly
  • Ability to work independently and as a team

Professional Attitude and Demeanor

  • Ability to present professional appearance 
  • Ability to implement measures to maintain own physical and mental health and emotional stability 
  • Emotional and mental health necessary to effectively apply knowledge and exercise appropriate judgment 
  • Ability to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability 
  • Ability to practice honest and ethical behavior and accountability
  • Ability to self-evaluate
  • Ability to demonstrate respect for individuals of diverse ethnic, social, emotional and intellectual  backgrounds, religion and/or sexual orientation
  • Ability to conduct self in a professional manner at all times