Dental assistants help dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists while patients are being examined and treated. They also do clerical work.
Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a dental assistant is like.
Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Source: 2021 Job Bank Wage Report
Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook
10 year expected job openings: 1,930
Dental assistants can be certified or uncertified. Only certified dental assistants (CDAs) may perform “intra-oral” duties inside a patient’s mouth. Uncertified or “chairside” dental assistants perform only “extra-oral” duties outside a patient’s mouth.
Certified dental assistants:
Chairside dental assistants:
Under a dentist’s supervision, chairside dental assistants with a radiography designation can also expose X-rays.
Dental assistants work in clean, well-lit dentists’ and orthodontists’ offices, hospitals, public health centres, clinics and educational institutions. They usually work 40 hours per week. Some may work Saturdays or evenings.
Dental assistants wear gloves, masks, eyewear and protective clothing to shield themselves and their patients from infection. They follow safety procedures when taking X-rays.
Source: 2016 Census
Chairside dental assistants generally need a secondary school diploma and on-the-job training. They're not regulated and don't need to be certified.
Certified dental assistants (CDAs) must complete an approved CDA program. This usually takes nine months to one year. They must then be certified by the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC). CDAs must earn 36 continuing education credits every three years to keep their licence.
Dental assistants who have completed an accredited CDA program outside of B.C. can apply to CDSBC for certification. CDAs who wish to renew their licence and those with foreign qualifications can take written and clinical exams through the National Dental Assisting Examining Board.
Dental assistants who are certified for that occupation by a regulator elsewhere in Canada can apply for the same certification from the regulator in B.C. Under the terms of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), most applicants who are transferring their credentials from elsewhere in Canada will not be required to complete additional training or testing. However, the B.C. regulator may ask applicants to provide further information such as a letter of good standing, references, or criminal record check.
For those who trained outside of Canada and never received certification from any Canadian jurisdiction, a full assessment is likely needed. Most occupational regulators have a process for assessment and recognize internationally trained applicants.
Contact the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC) for details on how to apply for certification in B.C.
For information about labour mobility in Canada, visit www.workersmobility.ca.
View a list of B.C. occupational regulators.
For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.
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Demand for dental assistants is expected to remain strong as B.C.’s population grows, as people become more aware of good dental hygiene and as they keep their natural teeth longer. Demand for cosmetic dental work, such as laser whitening and caps, is also growing.
Because certified dental assistants can perform a wider range of duties than chairside dental assistants, they have more job opportunities and higher salaries.
With additional training and licensing, a chairside assistant can become a certified dental assistant (CDA).
CDAs who wish to specialize can train in orthodontics (straightening teeth) or prosthodontics (replacing teeth). Chairside assistants can learn to expose X-rays by training in dental radiography.
Dental assistants may advance to senior CDAs, clinic or office managers, treatment co-ordinators, administrators, researchers, instructors or sales representatives. They can also enrol in a bridging program and train to become dental hygienists.