Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Assistants


Good oral health is an important part of your overall health. Because of this and everyone’s desire to have strong, healthy teeth, the dental industry is a high-demand industry to be working in. 

dental assistant Young female dentist in whitecoat, protective eyeglasses, mask and gloves going to do oral checkup of oral cavity of her little patient college program

Based on findings from Statistics Canada and a report published by the Canadian Dental Association, in 2018, approximately 75% of Canadians visited a dental clinic annually and 86% did so at least once every two years. Moreover, WorkBC notes that the demand for Dental Assistants is expected to grow and remain strong as people become more aware of good dental hygiene and want to keep their natural teeth longer.

In the field of dentistry, Dental Assistants are important and valuable members of the team. Below, we’ll be going over some of the most commonly asked questions about Dental Assistants including what they do, the difference between Level 1 and 2 dental assisting, how much they earn, how long a diploma program takes, and much more. 

What Is a Dental Assistant?

A Dental Assistant is a professional who works closely with and under the supervision of a practicing Dentist or Dental Hygienist to help examine and treat patients. In this diverse role, Dental Assistants take on a variety of responsibilities including chair-side and intra-oral duties, which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.  

As essential members of the dentistry team, Dental Assistants need to have and master all the technical, professional, and interpersonal skills need to perform within their clinical and administrative scope of practice.

What Is Level 1 and Level 2 Dental Assisting?

Dental Assistants can be classified into two different levels – Level 1 and Level 2.

The first category is Level 1, which is strictly “chair-side” dental assisting. Level 1 Dental Assistants are only able to help with “extra-oral” activities – this means that they can only engage in tasks that are outside of the patient’s mouth like preparing and seating patients.

However, it’s important to note that Level 1 Dental Assistant still do hold a number of important responsibilities like charting patient information, sterilizing instruments and the clinical area, processing and mounting radiographs, providing patient education and post-operative instructions, and much more. Once Dental Assistants finish Level 1, they can continue on to Level 2 training to be able to perform “intra-oral” duties.    

Level 2 Dental Assistants are able to do everything Level 1 Dental Assistants can do plus “intra-oral” responsibilities, which means that they can work inside a patient’s mouth. Level 2 Dental Assistants are able to fulfill more advanced duties like polishing teeth and clinical crowns, applying fluoride and sealant, removing stitches from wounds, applying topical anesthetic and agents to reduce sensitivity and tooth decay, and much more.  

Woman Getting Dental Work Done

Individuals who complete both Level 1 and Level 2 have the opportunity to become Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs).

What Duties and Responsibilities Do Dental Assistants Have?

In addition to some of the tasks mentioned in the section above, Dental Assistants are responsible for:

  • Supporting dentists with patient care during dental procedures
  • Preparing patients for treatment by practicing precautions and attending to the patients’ comfort
  • Helping with preventative, orthodontic, and prosthodontic dental procedures
  • Organizing and preparing the equipment and tools needed for procedures
  • Collecting and updating health histories
  • Engaging in the cleaning and maintenance of instruments and equipment
  • Ensuring the proper inventory control of dental supplies
  • Patient booking and payment collection

What Is the Salary of a Dental Assistant?

In British Columbia, Dental Assistants earn an annual provincial median salary of $54,226 based on the 2019 Job Bank Wage data from WorkBC. Since this is only the median salary, this number can always go up depending on your experience and knowledge in the field.

Not only do Dental Assistants have a favourable salary, but they are also considered to be a high opportunity occupation. By high opportunity occupation, this means that a career as a Dental Assistant is expected to experience higher demand and offer higher pay compared to other occupations in British Columbia. This, however, should come as no surprise as we discussed the high demand and job outlook for workers in the dentistry field earlier above. To learn more about high opportunity occupations, click here

Where Can You Study to Become a Dental Assistant?

Sprott Shaw College’s Dental Assistant Program is 45 weeks long and includes both Level 1 and Level 2 dental assistant training in one extensive program. Throughout the course of 45 weeks, students will gain the specialized knowledge, critical thinking, and decision-making skills they will need to succeed in the industry. Courses and concepts covered in the program include dental radiography, preventive dentistry, diagnostic records, dental pharmacology, oral pathology, disease prevention transmission, dental practices, and more.

As a hands-on program, students will receive practical learning in the dentistry lab and practicum. Our Dental Assistant Program includes over 540 hours of clinical experience including two practicum opportunities so students can gain relevant work experience before graduation. In addition to the clinical practicum experience, students will also get the chance to participate and learn in an actual clinical dentistry practice with both chair-side and intra-oral responsibilities.

Portrait of young female dentist with patient in the dental office. Doctor wearing glasses, mask, white uniform and pink gloves. On the background monitor with X-ray the patient's teeth. Dentistry

At Sprott Shaw, we have a modern dental lab that features state-of-the-art dental operatory chairs and the latest technology in the industry including digital x-rays, digital charts, dummies with root canals and fillings, and much more.

After completing our Dental Assistant Program, graduates will be eligible to write the National Dental Examining Board (NDAEB) written and clinical exam. If they pass this exam, they will be able to apply for licensure with the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC) and becoming practicing Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs).

What Are the Regulatory Dentistry Bodies in British Columbia?

If you want to be a practicing Dental Assistant in British Columbia, you will need to know and be familiar with the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC). The CDSBC is the regulatory body for Dentists, Dental Therapists, and Certified Dental Assistants in BC. The role of the CDSBC is to protect the public by overseeing the conduct and competence of its registrants by ensuring that they are registered and qualified to practice and consistently provide safe and ethical care to their patients.

Sprott Shaw’s Dental Assistant Program has been designed to meet the regulations governing certified dental assisting practices as defined by the CDSBC.

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