In Canada, dental assistants are an important part of the complete oral care system. You can find them not only in dentist’s offices, but in hospitals and regional health units. Dental assistants in this country are part of a “restricted health care occupation” profession. That means that the profession is mainly self-regulated.
Each Canadian province has its own governing body and have specific requirements to work as a dental assistant in that province. The Canadian Dental Assistants Association estimates that there are over 20,000 registered dental assistants across the country.
Question 1: How do I become a dental assistant?
To become a dental assistant there are a number of accredited training programs for dental assistants across Canada. You need a high school diploma and some knowledge of sciences like biology and chemistry. Entrants may also need a valid CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) Level C certificate.
The initial training for dental assistants includes basic education in areas such as:
- microbiology and infection control
- preventive dentistry
- dental radiography
- clinical assisting procedures
- community dental health.
Once that training has been completed, the graduate can apply to the provincial dental assisting regulatory authority to become registered and certified within their province. In order to become licensed, dental assistants will need to hold the National Dental Assisting Examination Board certificate.
Question 2: What do dental assistants do?
Most of us have seen a dental assistant at work in our dentist’s office, providing support and assistance to the dental health professionals. Their duties might range from:
- collecting patient information at intake
- collecting information when patients arrive for their regular check-ups
- maintaining dental instruments and equipment
- preparing dental materials like dental composites, amalgams and cements.
In addition to private dental offices, they can be found in teaching and educational facilities, with insurance companies or even with dental supply companies.
Question 3: How competitive is the industry?
The evolution of dental assisting has meant that it may no longer be enough to complete the initial certificate training for dental assistants. There are new practices, new technologies and major changes in oral health and the needs of Canadian patients. There are always new skills to learn and better ways that dental assistants can collaborate with patients, other healthcare professionals and our modern society in order to achieve and maintain optimal oral health and well-being.
Question 4: What education does a dental assistant need?
Dental assistant continuing education is a way for dental assistants to refresh, re-engage and re-invigorate their career to better achieve their goals. The main objectives of this continuing education are to provide additional education and support so that dental assistants can understand and implement the many new technologies and practices that are emerging in dentistry.
There is often a three or four-part curriculum that builds on their basic skills and helps familiarize them with all of the newest products and protocols in important areas like infection control, dental implants and digital solutions. But this training also provides opportunities for personal improvement including sessions on patient care and comfort and improving communication in the dental workplace.
Question 5: Do I need continuing education?
In addition to the general benefits noted above, there are some distinct advantages for any dental assistant who completes such a program. They include having the capacity to ensure that proper infection prevention and control protocols are followed, and that they are completely up to date on the proper care and maintenance of dental equipment and instruments.
The series of sessions will allow them to assist with implant surgical and restorative procedures and improve their overall communication skills with patients, co-workers, and other healthcare professionals.