Dental Assistant Levels: What Are the Differences? | Cestar College
A dental assistant at work, helping a dentist
26 Jun 2020

Dental Assistant Levels: What Are the Differences?

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    There are plenty of reasons to be drawn to becoming a dental assistant in Canda. This career offers job security, competitive wages, and work that is truly fulfilling. Another key advantage of becoming a dental assistant is the accelerated learning that you can undertake – it does not take more than a year to become a dental assistant. If you would like to get a better grasp of what dental assistants do, make sure to check out our article, The Roles and Duties of a Dental Assistant.

    This article delves into the differences between a Level I Dental Assistant and Level II Dental Assistant. We’ll talk about the scope of training, differences in job roles, and so on. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be one step closer to making an informed decision about which level you would like to pursue. So let’s get started!

    What is a Level I Dental Assistant and Level II Dental Assistant?

    Dental assistants, no matter what level, work closely and under the supervision of a dentist. They are assigned tasks related to before and after the dentist meets with the patients. The Canadian Dental Assistants Association subdivides this profession into two categories: Level I and Level II.

    Level I dental assistants are classified as “chair side” assistants which means their tasks revolve around preparing and seating patients. However, they may also perform other duties like charting patient information, sterilizing instruments, pouring and trimming cast models, and so on.

    Meanwhile, level II dental assistants, also known as intra-oral dental assistants, are required to complete the additional intra-oral training that’s required for them to be able to handle additional responsibilities on top of the responsibilities associated with level I. Level II dental assistants are also required to complete certification requirements in most areas of Canada.

    Now that we’ve talked briefly about what level I and level II means for this profession, we can have a closer look at their differences, starting with what we’ve already mentioned: training.
    Dental assistant level I, updating patient information

    Difference#1: Training

    As of now, there is no formal training that only encompasses level I dental assisting skills in Canada. All programs of today combine chairside dental assisting skills and intra-oral dental assisting skills – level I and II together. So even for individuals who would like to pursue a career as a dental assistant level I, going through the Dental Assistant Program (Intra-Oral Level I & II) is still a way to get a competitive advantage.

    As for aspiring level II dental assistants, they are required to have the needed intra-oral training. This means that they really need to undergo formal education through a Dental Assistant Program (Intra-Oral Level I & II).

    To get into this program, completion of high school with an emphasis on sciences is required. Additionally, some programs may require their students to maintain a valid CPR Level C Certificate.

    The Dental Assistant Program would typically take a year to complete. It equips the learner with skills for chairside dental assisting (level I) as well as intra-oral dental assisting (level II). The program would cover mandatory skills such as the following:

    • Chairside dental assisting
    • Expose dental radiographs
    • Oral hygiene instruction
    • Dietary counselling relative to oral health
    • Selective coronal polishing
    • Applies and removes dental dam, clamps, matrices, and wedges
    • Takes preliminary impressions
    • Applies treatment liner
    • Applies and removes matrix and wedge
    • Applies fluoride
    • Applies pit and fissure sealant
    • Applies desensitizing agents
    • Applies topical anesthetic
    • Performs tooth whitening using trays

    Difference#2: Certification

    Though certification will increase your hireability and give you the opportunity for a more competitive salary, it is not required to work as a level I dental assistant.

    Meanwhile, being a level II dental assistant is considered a “restricted health care occupation”. This means that though the profession is self-regulated, most provinces will require a license on top of formal training. In these provinces, after the aspiring level II dental assistant has finished the program, they must pass the exam given by the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB.) The mandatory skills listed in the previous section are required before an individual is qualified to take this exam.

    Note – You can confirm if the NDAEB certificate is required in your province by contacting the Dental Assisting Regulatory Authority.

    Difference#3: Responsibilities

    Now let’s talk about the scope of responsibilities or job tasks that these two levels have. Take note that individuals who have completed the Dental Assistant Program (Intra-Oral Level I & II) and have been certified still have a choice if they would like to opt for a level I dental assistant job.

    Level I Dental Assistant

    Level I dental assistants can be tasked with the following:

    • Prepare the patient for the dental procedures
    • Chart the patient’s information
    • Prepare and sterilize the area as well as the instruments used for the procedures
    • Pour and make cast models
    • Relay the post-operative instructions and patient care
    • Order and maintain the stock of dental supplies

    Level II Dental Assistant

    The full list of services that level II dental assistants can provide in Ontario are outlined in the ODAA’s scope of practice here. These are expanded services that go into Orthodontics and Prosthodontics. Level II dental assistants can also do the responsibilities of level I dental assistants. And on top of that, they are capable of doing these specialized tasks:

    • Expose the dental radiographs
    • Obtain impressions and occlusal records
    • Place and remove dental dam clamps
    • Apply desensitizing agents, anesthetics, and whitening agents to the coronal portions of the teeth
    • Apply materials to prepare the surface of the teeth for pit and fissure sealants
    • Apply pit and fissure sealants
    • Mechanical polishing
    Level II dental assistant working closely with a dentist

    Difference#4: Salary

    Because level II dental assistants have more specialized responsibilities, they have a higher hourly wage than the level I dental assistants. In the past section, we’ve made it clear that dental assistants who have completed formal education and possess a license can still opt for a level I dental assistant job.

    According to the Ontario Dental Assistant’s Association, the hourly rate of a new grad certified dental assistant (chairside) is $20.34. Meanwhile, the hourly rate of a new grad certified dental assistant (intra-oral) is $22.42.

    For both levels, years of experience would boost the hourly wage higher. For a certified dental assistant (chairside) with 2-5 years of experience, the hourly rate would go up to $21.80. Meanwhile, a certified dental assistant (intra-oral) with 2-5 years of experience would have an hourly rate of $22.97.

    Do You Feel Drawn To Becoming A Dental Assistant?

    Do you feel pulled towards becoming a dental assistant level I or level II? Either way, getting top-notch, NDAEB-approved education will give you a sure advantage.

    If you’re ready to take the next step, we are here for you. Cestar College in Toronto is one of the top accredited institutions that can provide you with the comprehensive Dental Assistant Program (Intra-Oral Level I & II) that you’d need to succeed in this profession.

    Got any questions for us? Feel free to reach out and we’ll be more than happy to help!


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