Dental assistants

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About dental assistants

Dental assistants are regulated health professionals who provide high-quality oral care to patients. They may work with dentists, hygienists and dental therapists autonomously and in four-handed dentistry during the examination and treatment of patients. The dental assistant is responsible for ensuring that the process and practice of infection control is conducted to accepted professional standards. 

Dental assistants practise in dental offices and labs (general and specialty), but they may be employed by governments, community health centres, clinics, private care homes and educational institutions. 

Data availability

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

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, dental assistants are regulated in all provinces except Quebec and Ontario. Dental assistants are not regulated in the territories.

Practice criteria

To practise as a dental assistant in Canada, an individual must obtain a licence from one of the dental assistant authorities in Canada. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.

Common requirements

  • Hold a certificate in dental assisting from an accredited, recognized program or another dental-related assisting program
  • Pass the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate (applicable in most provinces)
  • Register with a provincial regulatory body as required 

Scope of practice

Dental assistants are highly trained professionals who perform clinical and administrative procedures through assignment and delegation of duties and responsibilities.  

The scope of practice for dental assistants is articulated in provincial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice. 

The main functions of dental assistants includei

  • Collecting patient information
  • Preparing and maintaining dental instruments and equipment
  • Assisting dentists with patient care, and with preparation of dental materials such as dental composites, amalgams and cements 

A dental assistant may also be involved in managing dental emergencies, examining, diagnosing or planning dental treatment, performing final placement of fixed or removable dental prosthetic appliances, managing dental records, and managing patients during dental procedures

i. Canadian Dental Assistants Association. Scope of Practice. Accessed May 13, 2016.