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About dentists

Dentists are regulated health professionals who are experts in oral health. Dentists treat diseases, conditions and disorders of the teeth, mouth and surrounding tissues and structures to contribute to oral health and general well-being. They may work with dental hygienists, dental assistants, laboratory technicians and receptionists.  

A dentist practises in private practice clinics, hospitals, universities and public health facilities.

Data availability

CIHI’s Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects aggregate-level, standardized data on the regulatory environment, supply, and demographic and education characteristics of dentists in Canada.

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, dentists are regulated in all 13 provinces and territories. 

Practice criteria

To practise as a dentist in Canada, an individual must obtain a licence from one of the dental authorities in Canada. Each province/territory has a dental regulatory authority/licensing body that establishes regulations and requirements for the licensure of general practitioners within its jurisdiction. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another. In order to obtain a licence, the applicant must hold a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree from an accredited program.

In addition to a dental regulatory college, each jurisdiction also has a dental association. Membership in the provincial/territorial and national dental associations is a necessary component of licensure in all provinces except Ontario and Quebec. Also, in the territories, membership in the Yukon Dental Association and the Northwest Territories & Nunavut Dental Association is not mandatory for registration and licensing.i

Common requirements

  • Hold a DDS or DDM degree from an accredited program
  • Pass the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) Written Examination and Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  • Register with a provincial/territorial regulatory body
  • Regulatory authorities in some provinces require applicants to complete a Jurisprudence and Ethics examination, which tests knowledge of local law, ethics and regulation of the profession in that jurisdiction. Graduates of accredited dental programs and accredited qualifying/degree completion programs, and individuals who have successfully completed the NDEB Equivalency Process are required to complete the NDEB Written Examination and OSCE to become eligible for licensure as a general dentist in Canada. 

Scope of practice

The scope of practice for dentists is articulated in provincial/territorial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice. Some of their main functions includeii   

  • Examining and diagnosing oral condition
  • Recommending and performing treatment
  • Conducting preventive care and detecting signs of oral cancer
  • Helping clients understand oral health care and its importance, helping clients to keep teeth healthy and comfortable across their lifetime
  • Informing clients about post-operative care options
  • Performing emergency or required procedures — and helping clients determine a long-term treatment plan that meets their needs and circumstances

i. Canadian Dental Association. Laws, Regulations and Guidelines in Canadian Health Care. Accessed August 4, 2018.
ii. Canadian Dental Association. Your Dental Care Team. Accessed May 7, 2016.