Dental assistants are a vital part of our complete oral care system. They play a role in supporting dentists as well as working in local and regional health units and hospitals and clinics. They are part of a restricted health care occupation that does not require formal registration with an association or regulatory board, but rather is a self-regulated profession.
There are over 20,000 dental assistants across the country according to the Canadian Dental Assistants Association. Most of these are registered with their provincial or territorial association that helps to monitor and regulate the profession in that jurisdiction.
1. What are dental assistants?
As noted above, you would most likely be familiar with the dental assistant who works in your local dental office. She or he is the person who is working directly with the dentist in getting their equipment and supplies ready and preparing compound and materials to assist them in their work. But in addition to providing support and assistance to dental health professionals, they also collect patient information at intake and make them feel comfortable and at ease.
They also help maintain dental instruments and equipment and prepare dental composites, amalgams and cements. Some dental assistants also work in teaching and educational facilities and still others may work with insurance companies and dental supply companies.
2. Becoming a dental assistant
In order to start a career as a dental assistant you have to enrol in accredited training program for dental assistants. These are available from many local and community colleges and the basis requirements are a school diploma and some knowledge of sciences like biology and chemistry. Many programs also require a valid CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) Level C certificate.
3. Enrolling in a training program
In the training program, candidates will formal instruction in subjects like microbiology and infection control, preventive dentistry, dental radiography, clinical assisting procedures and community dental health. That initial training allows graduates to then apply to the provincial or territorial dental assisting regulatory authority.
Then, they can become registered and certified within their jurisdiction. If they wish to become licensed, there is a further step to follow. In that case, dental assistants will need to take the National Dental Assisting Examination Board and if they pass they will receive a certificate that entitles them to practice in any part of Canada, subject to local regulations and requirements.
4. Importance of dental assistant courses
Dental assistants need to keep learning as they develop in their career. It is no longer possible to take a course or program of training as a dental assistant and then assume you will know everything about your job. There will always be new practices, new technologies and major changes in oral health that dental assistants will need to deal with.
Through continuing dental assistant training, they can learn new skills to learn and develop better ways to help their patients and collaborate with other dental and healthcare professionals in order to achieve and maintain optimal oral health.
5. How dental assistant courses work
Dental assistant courses can help dental assistants re-invigorate their career to better achieve their goals. The main objectives of the dental assistant courses are to provide additional education and support in order to implement the many new technologies and practices that are emerging in dentistry.
Most of these dental assistant courses are combined in a three or four-part curriculum that reinforces basic skills and helps to familiarize dental assistants with all of the newest products and protocols. This might include areas like infection control, dental implants and digital solutions. Dental assistant courses will also feature personal improvement sessions on issues like patient care and help them to improve communication in the modern dental workplace.