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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Canada?

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Updated on October 4th, 2021

Dental assisting is a growing and popular profession here in Canada. As an international student, you have two options for becoming a dental assistant in Canada – getting an education in Canada or having your foreign credentials reviewed by the National Dental Assisting Examining Board. After you’re licensed as a dental assistant, your education is complete and you can continue with your dental assisting career right here in Canada!

Canada has Two Categories of Dental Assistants

According to the level of training received, there are two categories of dental assistants.

  • Assistants at Level I are called chairside assistants. Their responsibilities include conducting x-rays, sterilizing instruments, providing patients with hygiene instructions, and others.
  • An assistant at Level II performs more duties, such as applying topical anesthetic, taking impressions, and other intra-oral tasks.

The duties of a Level II assistant will vary depending on the province.

Learn more about the Dental Technology Science Facility at Vancouver Community College.

Pathway 1 – Complete your dental education and certification in Canada

Colleges with Dental Assistant Programs

  1. Vancouver Community College – Dental Technology Sciences – The curriculum, instructional strategies, and delivery methods of dental laboratory technology courses are guided by the National Essential Competencies for Dental Laboratory Technology Practice in Canada. Students enrolled in the Dental Technology Sciences program will learn core professional competencies through a variety of teaching and learning activities. Students will participate in laboratory experiences for both theory and practice.
  2. Southern Alberta Institute of Technology – Dental Assistant – Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) offers a 10-month certificate program in dental assisting; the program is focused on teaching students how to provide patient-centred care to improve oral health. Students will learn via lab work, course work, lectures, and a 4-week practicum experience at the end of the program. The program will be divided into 3 semesters in total. In the first semester, some of the courses covered will be clinical foundations, dental emergencies and records, and infection prevention and control. Moving into semester 2, students will take dental courses in prosthodontics, nutrition, and restorative procedures. In the final semester, students will experience courses such as preventive procedures, prosthodontics and of course the 4-week practicum experience at a dental office.
  3. Fanshawe College of Applied Arts and Technology – Dental Hygiene – Fanshawe College offers a 90-week program in Dental Hygiene for both domestic and international students. The program will allow you to develop knowledge through simulation labs, classroom instruction and clinical placements. There are 6 levels students in this program will have to complete; levels 1-3 include mandatory courses, clinical practices, and professional practice. Some courses included in these 3 levels are anatomy and physiology, periodontology, and dental hygiene radiography. In levels 4-6, students in the program will take a number of mandatory courses, complete clinical and professional practices, as well as community health practice placements. Some of the mandatory courses offered for students in these levels are multiculturalism in health care, pharmacology, and oral pathology.
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Pass the National Dental Assisting Exam

The goal of Canada’s National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) is to assess graduates from dental assisting programs to ensure they have a suitable education to practice as intra-oral dental assistants in Canada. There are two parts to this assessment – a written exam and a clinical practice evaluation. It should be noted that the clinical practice evaluation is only necessary for graduates of Canadian non-accredited and out-of-country educational programs.

The written exam is available in a number of Canadian cities for new graduates to take. Applicants must apply for the exam, write the exam, and receive their post-exam details regarding their marks. The National Dental Assisting Examining Board provides an entire candidate handbook on applying to take the exam, taking the exam, and exam follow-up. The candidate exam can be accessed here – https://documents.ndaeb.ca/we-candidate-handbook/

Some graduates will also be required to pass a clinical practice evaluation. The evaluation will assess these 9 areas:

  • Skill 1: Exposes digital radiographic images
  • Skill 2: Obtains preliminary impressions for study casts
  • Skill 3: Applies and removes dental dam
  • Skill 4: Selective coronal polishing
  • Skill 5: Applies treatment liner
  • Skill 6: Applies and removes matrix band and wedge
  • Skill 7: Applies anti-cariogenic topical fluoride gel
  • Skill 8: Applies pit and fissure sealant
  • Skill 9: Applies topical anesthetic

For applications and more information on the clinical practice evaluation, view the handbook.

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Pathway 2 – Have your foreign credentials and experience assessed in Canada

If you received your dental assistant education from a country outside of Canada, you’ll have to have your education and experiences assessed. Internationally-trained dental assistants must be qualified as intra-oral (Level II) dental assistants, through formal dental assisting education or other formal allied dental healthcare educational programs. Further, international candidates must show proof of competency in the following areas:

  • Chairside dental assisting (Level I)
  • Exposes digital radiographic images
  • Provides oral hygiene instruction
  • Provides dietary counselling relative to oral health
  • Applies and removes dental dam
  • Selective coronal polishing
  • Applies anti-cariogenic topical fluoride gel
  • Obtains preliminary impressions
  • Applies and removes matrix band and wedge
  • Applies treatment liner
  • Applies pit and fissure sealant
  • Applies desensitizing agents
  • Applies topical anesthetic
  • Performs tooth whitening using trays
  • Performs suture removal

Applicants should complete both parts of the NDAEB examination – the written exam and the clinical practical evaluation. Applicants can choose not to complete the clinical practical evaluation and instead may choose to attend intra-oral (Level II) upgrading at a Canadian dental assisting program. If the applicant chooses to do so, the upgrading should include the below skills:

  1. Exposes digital radiographic images
  2. Applies and removes dental dam
  3. Selective coronal polishing
  4. Obtains preliminary impressions
  5. Applies treatment liner
  6. Applies and removes matrix band and wedge
  7. Applies anti-cariogenic topical fluoride gel
  8. Applies pit and fissure sealant
  9. Applies topical anesthetic

Applicants choosing to attend academic upgrading in lieu of the CPE are advised to attend a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC).

Career Outlook for Dental Assistants in Canada

In Canada, labour supply and demand for dental assistants are expected to be broadly in line; the total expected job openings will be 11 100, meanwhile, new job seekers will total 13 700 over the period 2019-2028 according to the Government of Canada. Demand is expected to be the highest in the provinces of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, and fair in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Quebec, as mentioned by the Government of Canada.

Salary Expectations in Each Canadian Province

In terms of salary, dental assistants in Canada earn a median hourly salary of $22.75 according to the Government of Canada. There is however considerable variation amongst the provinces, as outlined below and mentioned by the Government of Canada:

  • Alberta – $30.00 per hour
  • British Columbia -$26.00 per hour
  • Manitoba – $22.00 per hour
  • New Brunswick – $20.00 per hour
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – $20.00 per hour
  • Northwest Territories – N/A
  • Nova Scotia – $21.00 per hour
  • Nunavut – N/A
  • Ontario – $22.00 per hour
  • Prince Edward Island – $19.10 per hour
  • Quebec – $20.00 per hour
  • Saskatchewan – $27.00 per hour
  • Yukon – N/A
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Dental assisting is a commonly sought after career by domestic and international students alike. For international students, there are two options to becoming dental assistants here in Canada; one is getting a dental assistant education right here in Canada. The second option is to have your foreign credentials assessed by the National Dental Assisting Examining Board through a written exam and clinical practice evaluation. International students have options for becoming a dental assistant in Canada, so get started on your journey!

Source: The National Dental Assisting Examining Board Fanshawe College Dental Assisting SAIT Occupation Outlook Wages Occupation

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