Career in Dental Assisting

What is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant is a dental health professional who works closely with and under the supervision of a dentist. They work with patients by performing tasks before and after the dentist meets with the patient as well as assist the dentist during certain dental procedures.

What Can A Dental Assistant Do?

Dental Assistants perform a variety of tasks and depend upon provincial regulations, however following are some specific tasks dental assistants may perform:

  • Assisting the dentist and hygienist during a variety of treatment procedures;
  • Taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays);
  • Asking about the patient’s medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse;
  • Serving as an infection control officer, developing infection control protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment;
  • Helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment;
  • Providing patients with instructions for oral care following surgery or other dental
  • Treatment procedures, such as the placement of a restoration (filling);
  • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health (e.g., toothbrushing, flossing and nutritional counseling);
  • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts (models of teeth);
  • Performing office management tasks that often require the use of a computer;
  • Communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g., scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, billing and ordering supplies); and
  • Assisting with and helping to provide direct patient care in all dental specialties, including orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and oral surgery.

See the Canadian Dental Assisting Legal Scope of Practice for a list of skills Level II dental assistant’s can perform, by province.

What Is A Level I Assistant?

A Level I dental assistant is classified as a “chair side” assistant, which means they prepare and seat patients. Other duties they may perform include: charting patient information, sterilizing instruments and the clinical area, preparing dental materials and cements, assisting in dental procedures, processing and mounting radiographs, pouring and trimming cast models, providing patient education and post-operative instructions as well as maintaining and ordering dental supplies.

What Is A Level II Dental Assistant?

Level II dental assistants obtain additional training in intra-oral duties, which means they are able to do everything a Level I dental assistant can do along with; dental radiography, mechanical polishing of the coronal portion of the teeth, placement and removal of rubber dams, taking of preliminary impressions of teeth for study models, topical application of anti-cariogenic agents, oral hygiene instruction with an intra-oral component, dietary counseling relative to dentistry, application of materials topically to prepare the surface of the teeth for pit and fissure sealants, application of pit and fissure sealants, application of topical anesthetics, desensitizing agents and whitening of the coronal portion of the teeth. There are also option Level II duties, which include polishing restorations and oral irrigation.

What Education or Training Do Dental Assistants Need?

Educational requirements to a dental assisting program vary however many include successful completion of secondary school diploma with biology and chemistry. Some programs require a valid CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) Level C certificate.

In all provinces, except Quebec, the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate is required for dental assistants entering practice and seeking registration or certification for licensure for the first time.  Foreign trained dental health professionals are required to complete the NDAEB exam and the NDAEB Clinical Practice Evaluation to attain license to practice in all provinces except Quebec.

For foreign trained dental professionals to be eligible to complete the NDAEB exam and evaluation you must have your academic credentials assessed by a credential assessment agency acceptable to the NDAEB.

Dental Assistants across Canada are governed by different rules and regulations, which are established by the Health Professions Act and their provincial dental assisting regulatory authorities. Education and training coupled with provincial registration and licensing make dental assistants qualified to perform their trained skills.