Dental Assistants

Occupation:Dental Assistants

About the job

Nature of work:

Dental assistants assist dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists during the examination and treatment of patients and perform clerical functions. They work in dentists' offices, community health centres, clinics, and in educational institutions.

Job duties:
Dental assistants perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Prepare patients for dental examination and assist the dentist during the examination.
  • Sterilize and maintain instruments and equipment.
  • Prepare dental instruments and filling materials.
  • Take and develop X-rays.
  • Polish teeth and clinical crowns and apply fluoride and sealant.
  • Take preliminary impressions for diagnostic casts.
  • Fabricate and place temporary crowns and restorations.
  • Educate patients concerning oral hygiene.
  • Invoice patients for dental services.
  • Schedule patient appointments and record dental procedures performed.
  • Order dental and office supplies.
  • May perform intra-oral duties such as remove sutures, take and record vital signs, apply desensitizing agents, topical anesthetic, anticariogenic agents and apply and remove rubber dams.
Sample job titles:
  • dental aide
  • dental assistant
  • dental clinical assistant
  • licensed dental assistant

To work as a dental assistant, you should have good interpersonal skills and a desire to help others. Patience and the ability to handle stressful situations may be needed. You must be efficient and accurate, yet sensitive to the needs of patients. Good manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and an aptitude for detailed and precise work are necessary.

Job requirements:
  • Completion of an eight-month to one-year college or other program in dental assistance, or completion of secondary school with on-the-job training is required.
  • To become a licensed dental assistant in Nova Scotia, you must complete an accredited Level II Dental Assisting program.
  • Licensing is required to perform intra-oral duties in Nova Scotia.
  • In Nova Scotia the job is regulated by the Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia.
Other considerations:

In some provinces there are two levels of dental assistants: Level I – chair-side assistant and Level II – intra-oral assistant. Progression from Level I to Level II is possible with education, training and licensure.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Fair

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “average”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is comparable to the average for all occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a moderate sized occupation in Nova Scotia so some job opportunities may occur through turnover. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow moderately over the next few years, which will likely provide some additional opportunities for employment. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Dental Assistants most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs may either be permanent or temporary positions, as both are common.

The median employment income for 59% of Dental Assistants who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $36,277. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Dental Assistants750Moderate growth70Low
Minimum: $17.75
Median: $19.50
Maximum: $25.00
Minimum: $11,685
Median: $32,788
Maximum: $45,443
Occupations in Health36,515Strong growth4,385Low
Minimum: $16.38
Median: $25.50
Maximum: $41.00
Minimum: $10,740
Median: $43,853
Maximum: $88,944
Dental AssistantsCompared to: Occupations in Health
Percent employed full-time87%77%
Percent self-employed5%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentDental AssistantsCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton12%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley13%$30,78413%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeDental AssistantsCompared to: All Health
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4144
GenderDental AssistantsCompared to: Occupations in Health
% Employed% Employed
EducationDental AssistantsCompared to: All Health
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolx$28,2961.1%$27,581
High school3.0%$24,0996.9%$24,119
Trades certificate9.0%$36,0595.0%$31,728
College certificate or diploma80.1%$33,93539.4%$36,693
University certificate or diploma1.8%$30,0214.8%$50,769
Bachelor's degree3.0%$25,03827.6%$57,186
University advanced certificate or diploma1.2%$27,9962.3%$61,833
Master's degree1.2%$33,4525.1%$87,808
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryxx7.2%$83,000
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Dental Assistant
Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia
1559 Brunswick Street, Suite 102
Halifax, NS B3J 2G1
(902) 420-0083
(902) 492-0301
Useful contacts:
Canadian Dental Assistants' Association
1150 – 45 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 1A4
Tel: (800) 345-5137
Fax: (613) 521-5572
Health Care Human Resource Sector Council
380 Bedford Highway
Halifax, NS B3M 2L4
Tel: (902) 461-0871
Fax: (902) 461-9572
Nova Scotia Dental Assistants Association
PO Box 9142, Station A
Halifax, NS B3K 5M8
Tel: (902) 405-1122
Fax: (902) 405-1133

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Dental assisting/assistant
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the trades/college level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to provide patient care, take dental radiographs (X-ray photographs), prepare patients and equipment for dental procedures, and discharge office administrative functions under the supervision of dentists and dental hygienists. These programs include courses in medical record-keeping, general office duties, reception and patient intake, scheduling, equipment maintenance and sterilization, basic radiography, pre-operative and postoperative patient care and instruction, chairside assisting, taking tooth and mouth impressions, and supervised practice.
See all institutions providing this program+
Cape Breton Business College
315 Jamieson Street PO Box 33 Whitney Pier
Sydney, NS B1N 3B1
(902) 564-2222
Nova Scotia Community College - Institute of Technology Campus
5685 Leeds Street
Halifax, NS B3K 2T3
(902) 491-6722
Additional resources: