Dental assistants (NOC 3411)

About this job

Dental assistants help dentists,dental hygienists and dental therapists during the examination and treatment of patients and do clerical functions.

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

People in this occupation:

  • work primarily in dentists' offices community health centres, clinics and in educational institutions.
  • must have an approachable, relaxed and trustworthy manner
  • should have strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • should have well-developed fine motor skills to manipulate devices such as rubber dams and X-ray film
  • should also enjoy working with people and as part of a team
Common job titles
  • aide / assistant, dental
  • assistant, chair-side - dental
  • assistant, dental - certified / clinical
  • assistant, licensed dental
  • assistant, preventive dental
  • assistant, registered dental
  • aide / assistant, dental
  • assistant, chair-side - dental
  • assistant, dental - certified / clinical
  • assistant, intra-oral dental - certified
  • assistant, licensed dental
  • assistant, preventive dental

Earnings

Annual provincial median salary

$50,054

Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage data

Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2016 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

Provincial hourly rate

  • High
  • Median
  • Low

Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage Report

Duties

Dental assistants:

  • prepare patients for dental examinations and help the dentist during the examination
  • sterilize and maintain instruments and equipment
  • prepare dental instruments and filling materials
  • educate patients about oral hygiene
  • schedule patient appointments and record dental procedures performed
  • invoice patients for dental services
  • order dental and office supplies
  • take and develop X-rays
  • polish teeth and clinical crowns and apply fluoride and sealant
  • take preliminary impressions for diagnostic casts
  • make temporary crowns and restorations
  • may perform intra-oral duties such as remove sutures, take and record vital signs, apply desensitizing agents, topical anaesthetic, anticariogenic agents and apply and remove rubber dams.

Work environment

Dental assistants usually work 40 hours per week in clean, well-lit dentists' offices, hospitals, public health centres and education institutions. Some shifts may include Saturdays or evenings.

Dental assistants wear gloves, masks, eye wear and protective clothing to protect themselves and their patients from infectious diseases. Safety procedures are also followed when using X-ray machines to reduce associated risks.

Job requirements

Education, training & qualifications

In B.C., there are two types of dental assistants – Level I and Level II. Level I dental assistants:

  • do not need to be certified and do extra-oral and office duties only
  • are generally required to have a secondary school diploma and complete on-the-job training

Most dentists prefer Level II dental assistants who are able to perform a wider variety of duties than Level I dental assistants.

Level II dental assistants:

  • are licensed to perform intra-oral duties, such as polishing teeth, applying fluoride and sealant and taking preliminary impressions
  • must be certified by the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC)
  • must complete an approved Level II dental assisting program to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) with CDSBC, apply to CDSBC within three years of completion and have Level C CPR certification
  • complete programs that take nine months to one year
  • who have completed an accredited Level II dental assisting program outside of the province can submit their qualifications to CDSBC for approval for certification
  • who have completed an approved Level II program more than three years ago or have foreign qualifications can apply to take the National Dental Assisting Examination Board exam

There are currently three expanded training programs for CDAs: an orthodontic module, a prosthodontic module and a dental radiography module. The orthodontic and prosthodontic modules provide the CDA with additional education and training in these two dental specialties. The dental radiography module prepares dental assistants to expose dental radiographs. A CDA must have 36 continuing education credits within a three-year cycle to maintain their CDA licence.

For more information see the CDSBC website at www.cdsbc.org or the Certified Dental Assistants of BC website at www.cdabc.org.

As of July 1, 2017 when the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) came into force, you will not need significant additional training, experience, testing or assessment if your qualifications or certificates are recognized by a Canadian regulatory authority. This applies whether you were trained in Canada or internationally. Learn about labour mobility at www.workersmobility.ca. For information about labour mobility and foreign qualifications recognition, contact the B.C. regulator for your occupation.

Skills

  • Social
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Clerical Ability
  • Motor Coordination
  • Detail-Oriented
View skills definitions

Education programs in B.C.

The following program areas are related to this occupation:
  • Dental Related

For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.

Select a region to view regional outlook
Vancouver Island / Coast Mainland / Southwest Thompson-Okanagan Kootenay Cariboo Northeast North Coast & Nechako
Cariboo
Employment in 2016:
130
Average annual employment growth:
3.0%
Expected number of job openings:
70
Kootenay
Employment in 2016:
170
Average annual employment growth:
1.5%
Expected number of job openings:
70
Mainland / Southwest
Employment in 2016:
3,290
Average annual employment growth:
2.4%
Expected number of job openings:
1,640
North Coast & Nechako
Employment in 2016:
90
Average annual employment growth:
N/A
Expected number of job openings:
N/A
Northeast
Employment in 2016:
70
Average annual employment growth:
N/A
Expected number of job openings:
N/A
Thompson-Okanagan
Employment in 2016:
720
Average annual employment growth:
1.7%
Expected number of job openings:
290
Vancouver Island / Coast
Employment in 2016:
790
Average annual employment growth:
2.4%
Expected number of job openings:
370

N/A - Data not available

Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook

Insights from industry

Job opportunities will come from new job creation and the need to replace retiring workers.

Overall, job opportunities for dental assistants should remain strong as B.C.'s growing population continues to increase the demand for dental services. The growth in awareness about good dental hygiene has increased the level of dental care in the general population. As people keep their natural teeth longer, older people will require more dental care than previously required. Cosmetic dental procedures, such as laser whitening and caps are also gaining popularity.

Since Level II (certified) dental assistants may perform a wider range of duties than Level I dental assistants, they are generally in higher demand.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Progression from Level I to Level II is possible with the appropriate training and licensure.

With additional training, dental assistants can also advance to positions as dental hygienists. Bridging programs are offered for CDAs who wish to pursue a career in dental hygiene.

Dental assistants may also advance to positions such as senior CDA, clinic manager, office manager, treatment coordinator, administrator, researcher, instructor or sales representative.

Additional resources