What is a dental assistant?
A dental assistant is an integral member of a multidisciplinary health care team. The dental assistant may assist a dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, or may work independently to carry out traditional chairside/clinical duties and business procedures. The dental assistant may work in a private dental office, a community health program, a business setting or an educational institution. A dental assistant is taught in five main areas: clinical assisting, patient education, intra-oral preventative services, intra-oral restorative services and business administration. Registration is mandatory with the Saskatchewan Dental Assistants' Association.
What do you do?
The dental assistant provides only those services for which they have been trained or assessed through a formal education program and which are within the scope of practice as designated by the regulatory body. The dental assistant is ethically bound to apply the principles of accepted current dental practice in the delivery of dental health services.
As a member of the dental health team, we assist in four-handed dentistry, take x-rays, take impressions, sterilize and provide preventive services. We also work as receptionists and office managers.
Is that all?
No, the opportunities are as diverse as the individuals involved! Expanded duty courses qualify us to practice in other specialty areas such as orthodontics and restorative procedures.
What attributes are needed?
Dental assisting could be a career for you if you enjoy working closely with people. Good hand-eye coordination is necessary. Good grooming and good health are essential for all health professionals.This health care practitioner must possess excellent communication skills as well as the ability to work effectively in a team environment. The profession requires that dental assistants have a genuine interest in people, posessing the ability to make patients as comfortable as possible in the dental chair.
SIAST Wascana, in Regina offers the only dental assisting program in Saskatchewan. This program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. This program status provides the most effective labour mobility. To obtain more information on the SIAST Dental Assistant Program; visit LINK. When considering other dental assistant courses check the CDAC website to confirm their accreditation; www.cda-adc.ca/cdacweb/
Dental Assisting is a one year program. The minimum entrance requirements are Grade XII with a minimum overall average of 65%. Applicants are required to have English Language Arts A30, English Language Arts B30, Biology 30, and the highest grade in one of the required mathematics (Foundations of Math 20 or Foundations of Math 30 or Pre-Calculus). Two sciences are recommended for career mobility. Successful applicants will have medical fitness, dental fitness and hold Standard First Aid and CPR Level C.
The Dental Assistant diploma program consists of chairside and intra-oral training, or an individual employed in a dental office may enrol in a chairside assisting correspondence course followed by an intra-oral program in a college. Training programs may vary but are generally the equivalent of 10 months in duration. The training institution must be recognized by the Saskatchewan Dental Assistants' Association. Training programs may choose to be 'accredited' by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada.
In addition to regular course examinations given as part of the required educational program, all applicants must satisfactorily complete the National Dental Assisting Board Examination, effective 1998. This examination is taken after the educational requirements have been met and is required for licensure in the majority of the Canadian provinces. Professional development is ongoing and necessary for re-licensure.
Applicants who have not graduated from a CDAC accredited educational program must also satisfactorily complete a "Clinical Practice Evaluation".
What are the employment opportunities?
Our future is bright; there are positions across Canada in rural and urban centers. Dental Assistants work in general dentistry practices, specialty offices and in the Student Clinic at the College of Dentistry, University of Saskatchewan. With further education, several dental assistants have become instructors in a recognized dental assisting training program.
What does it takes to be licensed?
All applicants who want to be licensed in Saskatchewan should provide the following documentation:
- Academic transcript
- NDAEB certificate (National Dental Assisting Examining Board)
- Proof of good standing with other regulatory body (as applicable)
- Proof of having graduated, taken retraining or having held a license to practice dental assisting within the last three years.
In order to practice dental assisting in Saskatchewan, licensure is essential. However, beyond our regulatory responsibility, the SDAA is able to provide the following benefits:
- A modern process of registration, licensure, skill listing and continuing education records.
- A modern approach to training assessment which recognizes prior learning.
- Availability of practising and non-practising licensure.
- Professional Liability insurance provided for every practising member.
- Home delivery of Accent on Assisting.
- Distribution of the annual Proposed Salary Guide to SDAA members and dentists in the province.
- Access to the Job Board.
- Organization and notice of professional development courses.
- A voice in policy decisions and in the future direction of dental assisting. i.e. professional development, legislation.
- Provision of pertinent information and resources to all dental assistants through liaison with local associations and the SDAA Council and office staff.
- Link to CDAA, SDHA, SDTA, College of Dental Surgeons, government and affiliates.
- Link to the provincial education program through representation on their advisory board and provincial education program representation on council.
- Membership survey in each five year term relative to wages, working conditions and other identified needs (National survey conducted by CDAA).
- Increased public profile through dental health month and National Dental Assistant Week activities.
- Programs relevant to dental assistants at the annual conference.
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