Minimum Skill Standards for Admission and Retention

Admission to Indiana University School of Dentistry’s dental assisting programs are open to qualified individuals and complies with all applicable state and federal non-discrimination laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Indiana Civil Rights Law. Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) will consider applicants who 1) have completed the appropriate application process, 2) have fulfilled all prerequisites, 3) are capable of acquiring the necessary knowledge, and 4) have the ability to perform or learn to perform the skills specified in these standards.

The faculty at Indiana University School of Dentistry have determined that the following skills are essential to the curriculum and are necessary to ensure that graduates of the program are fully prepared to practice. It is important to note that although these skills are necessary to admission and retention, successful completion of the dental assisting program will require meeting other academic and professional standards as specified in the curriculum and other institutional policies.

The faculty at IUSD recognizes that the award of Certificate in Dental Assisting carries with it the full authority of the institution and communicates to the public that the individual who has earned this certificate is competent to practice dental assisting. The Certificate is comprehensive, unique in that the graduate is permitted to offer dental assisting patient care. This means that every dental assisting student must acquire and demonstrate the didactic knowledge, as well as motor, sensory/observational, communication, cognitive, and behavioral skills, in order to complete the curriculum and to be fully prepared for dental assisting practice.

The faculty at IUSD recognizes that the dental assisting curriculum is unique and requires a myriad of technical, intellectual and interpersonal skills of its graduates. The faculty is mindful that the curriculum is stressful, requiring both emotional stability and physical stamina. Applicants to the program thus must possess the skills and abilities that will allow them to successfully complete the course of study and receive the full benefit of the education. It is important to note that during the dental assisting program, students are required to both perform and direct treatment on IUSD’s patients. Ultimately, the faculty has the responsibility of ensuring the safety and proper care of these patients. This includes the completion of treatment safely and within a reasonable amount of time. Because the faculty is mindful of the rigors of the curriculum, the immense responsibility for safe patient treatment, and the fact that the Certificate signifies readiness for dental assisting practice, a student can be denied admission to the dental assisting program or disenrolled from the program if accommodating a student’s disability would result in undue hardship to the institution, would pose a direct threat to patients, or would compromise the academic integrity of the program or create a fundamental alteration in the certificate program.


The faculty at Indiana University School of Dentistry has determined that the dental assisting student must be able to meet the following technical standards for admission to or retention in the program.


Students must have or be able to acquire sufficient motor function so that they are able to execute movements required to provide general care and treatment to patients, both during the dental assisting program and at completion of the curriculum. This means the student must possess motor skills necessary to directly perform palpation, bimanual manipulation, and fine tactile perception, as well as basic laboratory procedures. Such activities require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional uses of the senses of touch and vision.

Students must be able to perform basic life support procedures, including CPR, and position and reposition themselves around the patient and dental chair, either in a standing or sitting position. Students must be able to operate foot controls utilizing fine movements, operate low speed handpieces, which require controlled intraoral and extraoral movements of less than one millimeter, and utilize hand instrumentation.


Students must be able to master a defined level of information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in the biomedical and dental sciences. Students must be able to efficiently acquire information from written documents and to visualize information presented in images on paper, film, slides or video. Students must interpret radiographic and other graphic images, with or without the use of assistive devices. Students must have functional use of visual, auditory and tactile sensation.

In practice, a dental assistant must be able to observe a patient accurately, both at a distance and close at hand and must notice and appreciate nonverbal communication when performing dental assisting care. Thus, students in the dental assisting program must be able to perform visual and tactile dental examinations and treatment, including the use of visual acuity, accommodation, and color vision to discern the differences and variations in color, shape, and general appearance between normal and abnormal soft and hard tissues. Use of tactile senses may be either direct palpation or indirect through instrumentation. Students must also possess the visual acuity to read charts, records, small print and handwritten notations, and distinguish color intraorally and extraorally.


Good communication skills are essential for any health care provider and are stressed in the dental assisting curriculum. Therefore, a student must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with patients, faculty, staff and students in both oral and written forms.

Because successful dental practice depends on timely and efficient rendering of patient care services, students in the dental assisting program must have sufficient facility in English to obtain information from a variety of learning resources, convey concepts and knowledge on written examinations administered during a specific time period, elicit patient histories, problems and symptoms, record in and retrieve information from patient charts, and coordinate patient care with all members of the health care team.


Students must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, interpret, integrate, and synthesize. Problem solving, a critical skill demanded of dental assistants, requires all of these intellectual abilities. Because dental assisting care must be rendered in a timely and orderly fashion, students must be able to demonstrate cognitive skills in specified time periods and settings.


Students must possess the emotional health and stability required for full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, for the exercise of good judgment, in the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the care of patients, and in the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients, staff and other health care practitioners. Students must be able to tolerate physically and emotionally challenging workloads and to function effectively under stress, while in the dental assisting program and at completion of the certificate. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, to function in a climate of uncertainty in health care and to treat patients with compassion and integrity.