Dental assistants (NOC 3411)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

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.

Common job titles
  • aide / assistant, dental
  • assistant, chair-side - dental
  • assistant, dental - certified / clinical
  • assistant, intra-oral dental - certified
  • assistant, licensed dental
  • assistant, preventive dental

Duties

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:

  • Take and develop X-rays
  • Polish teeth and clinical crowns
  • Apply fluoride and sealant
  • Take preliminary impressions for diagnostic casts
  • Make temporary crowns and restorations
  • Remove stitches from wounds
  • Take and record vital signs as needed
  • Apply and remove rubber dams for dental procedures
  • Apply topical anaesthetic and agents to reduce sensitivity and tooth decay

Chairside dental assistants:

  • Schedule appointments
  • Keep records of patients’ dental work
  • Prepare patients for dental exams and help the dentist during the examination
  • Sterilize and maintain dental instruments and equipment
  • Prepare dental instruments and filling materials
  • Teach patients about oral hygiene
  • Invoice patients
  • Order dental and office supplies

Under a dentist’s supervision, chairside dental assistants with a radiography designation can also expose X-rays.

Work environment

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.

Insights from industry

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.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

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.

Additional resources