How to make up to $50,000 a year as a dental assistant

How To Make Up to $50,000 a Year as a Dental Assistant

When looking at starting a new career as a dental assistant, there are many things you’ll want to consider, such as the time to become a certified dental assistant, the availability of dental assistant jobs in your city, and the average salary within the dental industry.

Luckily, a career as a dental assistant includes a variety of job titles and salaries depending on your preferred career path, along with your education and experience level.

In this article, we’ll talk about the average salaries dental assistants make and a few insights on how to get higher pay. Along the way, we will also cover a few important fundamentals about dental assistants and the dental industry in general.

Let’s get into it!

A person in blue scrubs holding a clipboard and looking at a patient

The Educational Requirements and Roles of Dental Assistants in Ontario

When considering any profession, the first two things that usually come to mind are what are the educational requirements and what are the typical roles and responsibilities of someone working in that profession. Along with this, we’ll discuss different competitive wages and how much you can make within the profession depending on your job title.

For dental assistants, there are several programs you can enroll in, which is the first step anyone must take if they want to have a career as a dental assistant. In terms of roles and responsibilities, they can vary widely depending on the level of education attained and which area or industry you’re working in.

Of course, your level of education attained, where you are working, and what your typical responsibilities are also going to have a large impact on your salary on the opportunities for career growth.

With all that said, let’s look at the details and get a better idea of how people become registered dental assistants, what their day-to-day roles and responsibilities look like, and the average salary of a dental assistant.


After completing secondary education (i.e. earning your Ontario secondary school diploma), someone interested in becoming a dental assistant must complete an NDAEB-approved Dental Assistant Program – Intra-Oral Level I & II.

This is a program that equips aspiring dental assistants with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for success. The main objectives of such programs are to prepare students to pass the NDAEB certification exam and to give learners a competitive edge in a real-world dental office setting.

While all programs for dental assistants should have a similar goal of preparing students to be familiar with aiding dentists, there are some things to consider when choosing which school and program to attend, like how long the programs run for and how well they prepare you for your dental accreditation.

Here at Cestar College, our thorough Dental Assistant Program in Toronto runs for 52 weeks (or 1 year). It covers a comprehensive curriculum with courses like Dental Materials Safety, Dental Microbiology, Dental Radiography, Preventive Dentistry, and more. The program includes an immersive internship to help students garner valuable experience whilst being able to build their professional network.

After completing the dental assistant program, the next step is to pass the NDAEB written exam and obtain the certificate. This certificate is currently required in various provinces in Canada.

If you want more information about how long it takes to become a registered dental assistant, please refer to this other post, where we talk about the journey to becoming a dental assistant in more detail.


Level I and Level II dental assistants (as subdivided by the Canadian Dental Assistants Association and recognized by the Ontario Dental Assistants Association) perform separate tasks in a dental office.


While on the job, Level I dental assistants are usually tasked with patient care, preparing patients for dental procedures, keeping track of patient records, sterilizing the treatment area and the dental instruments, making cast models, relaying post-operative instructions to the patient, speaking to patients about dental hygiene, maintaining dental supplies, maintaining equipment, and so on.

Cestar College’s Level I program prepares students for all of these tasks with comprehensive foundational training that covers the fundamentals, dental record keeping, job-relevant laboratory procedures, and additional necessary skills and knowledge.


With Cestar’s Level II program, aspiring learners are given hands-on formal training on key dental areas such as exposing dental radiographs, selective coronal polishing, and applying and removing dental dams – all in accordance with NDAEB guidelines.

The following mandatory skills will be covered in the training program:

  • Chairside dental assisting
  • Expose dental radiographs
  • Oral hygiene instruction
  • Dietary counselling relative to oral hygiene
  • Selective coronal polishing
  • Applies and removes dental dam
  • 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

However, it’s important to note that the opportunities extend well beyond a private dental clinic. Dental assistants work in other practice environments like educational facilities, hospitals, insurance companies, public health, and dental supply companies. And if you’d prefer to work outside of the field for a while, you can also find work in administration, research, or education.

The Average Dental Assistant Salary in Ontario and How to Earn More 

Now that we have the fundamentals covered let’s go into a few insights you can use to set up your career and earn a more lucrative salary.


In various parts of Ontario, the data on average dental assistant salaries and wages are as follows:

  • Toronto: $46,995 per year
  • Mississauga: $46,761 per year
  • Ottawa: $51,168 per year
  • Brampton: $42,374 per year

However, wherever one might be, certified level II dental assistants typically earn more than level I dental assistants. This is because the former have more specialized responsibilities that require more technical knowledge and skills.

According to data from the Ontario Dental Assistants Association, The average hourly rate for a new level I dental assistant is $27.15 per hour, equating to $52,943 per year. Meanwhile, the average hourly rate for a new level II position is $27.25 per hour, equating to $53,139 per year.

A person wearing scrubs and gloves holding a microscope


As you gain more experience through the years, this will boost your compensation – whether you are practicing as a level I or level II dental assistant. So, let’s have a look at the data on how having 2-5 years of experience will impact your dental assistant salary:

  • New level I dental assistant: $24.12 per hour ($47,034 per year)
  • Level I dental assistant with 2-5 years of experience: $24.50 per hour ($47,775 per year)
  • New level II dental assistant: $25.72 per hour ($50,154 per year)
  • Level II dental assistant with 2-5 years of experience: $25.91 per hour ($50,525 per year)


In this section, we will take a closer look at the different career pathways that offer competitive salaries and/or attractive benefits. However, please note that the salaries and pay as outlined here are all averages that can fluctuate depending on your experience, the size of the employer, and the current demand.


One of the most lucrative and widely prevailing options for dental assistants in Ontario comes through private practice jobs. These can be at independent dental clinics, retirement homes, or cosmetic clinics for services like teeth whitening and so on. Dental assistants may also work in surgical practices such as orthodontics or periodontics, which can also command higher compensation. Depending on your level of education and experience, you can get paid up to $60,000 a year working in private practice roles.


You can also find work in the military as a dental assistant, where salaries can reach up to $45,000 a year as a government employee. There are also added benefits that you won’t find in private careers, such as possible paid education, signing bonuses, and increases based on your rank.

Additionally, you can receive basic military training and the opportunity for specialty and advanced training in areas such as field dental support and emergency dental support. As a military dental assistant, you may work either in a military dental clinic or mobile unit if in the field with your unit, which you should take into consideration before accepting a position.

While it may not be for everyone, working in the military can provide you with employment support programs and other unique benefits not commonly found in other dental assisting environments.


Finally, you can pursue a career working in public health units, which can include a variety of possible job descriptions. You can assist dentists in public health facilities, low-income neighbourhoods, hospitals, or schools. You can also pursue a career as an educator, either in public services or at post-secondary institutions like Cestar College, helping develop the next group of dental and health professionals. There are also opportunities available as a research assistant to help discover new technologies or methods that can be used in the field and improve all related services.

Similar to military careers, salaries can range up to $46,000 a year with the above pathways. While less than potential salaries in private practice, there are a wide variety of opportunities here that may be more rewarding or engaging.


Why You Should Become A Dental Assistant

Are you convinced to start a career as a dental assistant? If not, we’ve got some final points to persuade you. In our latest blog, we break down seven reasons why you should become a dental assistant:

  1. Versatility
  2. Great Dental Foundation
  3. Job Security
  4. Community Impact
  5. Accelerated Education Path
  6. Healthy Work Environment
  7. Job Satisfaction

Becoming a dental assistant not only provides you with a rewarding career, but this job also provides you with the opportunities to grow your compensation with your experience and education levels. With the promise of stability in hourly wages and job security, this field will support your future goals while putting a smile on people’s faces every day.

If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, it’s essential to be prepared for potential interview questions. Explore our article on 11 Common Dental Assisting Interview Questions to gain valuable insights into what to expect and how to ace your interview.

Why Choose Cestar College’s Dental Assistant Program?

By applying to Cestar College’s Dental Assistant (Intra-Oral Level I & II) program, you’re choosing:

  • One of the most comprehensive curriculums in Ontario, covering all aspects of dentistry available to Dental Assistants.
  • A dental assisting program (Intra-Oral Level I & II) that is NDAEB-approved.
  • An accredited college for providing formal training for national dental assisting, featuring HARP-approved dental radiography training.
  • 1245 hours of learning, including an internship, giving you the benefits of real-life work experience while still in school.
  • Small class sizes that foster discussion-based education and provide a welcoming learning environment for all students.
  • Dedicated instructors with years of experience who take pride in seeing their students succeed.
  • A challenging but rewarding learning experience full of support from all Cestar College faculty and administrators.

If you want to learn more about Cestar College’s Dental Assistant (Intra-Oral Level I & II) program or have any questions, please feel free to contact us!

One of our representatives will be more than happy to provide further information concerning any of your questions regarding the program start date, international students, student success, admission requirements, and so on.

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