How Much Can You Make as a Dental Assistant? | Cestar College
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24 Sep 2020

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

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    When looking at starting a new career, there are many things you’ll want to consider, such as time to be certified or complete your education, opportunities in your city, and the average starting salary. This is especially important when you live in a city like Toronto and are balancing rent, food, and fun along with your new career. Typically, starting salaries will fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, but you can leverage some of these to your advantage.

    Luckily, a career as a dental assistant runs in a variety of job titles and salary ranges depending on your preferred career path, along with your education and experience level. In this article, we’ll talk about the salary ranges you can expect and a few insights on how to get a higher pay. Along the way, we will also cover a few important fundamentals about the profession.

    Without further ado, let’s get started!

    Dental assistants looking at x-rays

    The Educational Requirements and Roles of Dental Assistants in Ontario

    Indeed, the salary range of dental assistants in Ontario is promising. But to put these figures into context, you would also want to consider two things: (1) the availability and feasibility of completing the needed training and (2) if the job tasks align with what you would like to do in the long run.

    1. Educational Requirements to Become a Dental Assistant in Ontario

    After completing secondary education, an aspiring 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 is to prepare learners to pass the NDAEB certification exam and give learners a competitive edge in the real world setting. Needless to say, choosing the right program is crucial.  

    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 also 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 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 dental assistant, please refer to this other article where we talk about the journey to becoming a dental assistant in more detail.

    2. The Roles of a Dental Assistant 

    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. 

    Level I dental assistants are usually tasked with preparing the patient, charting patient information, sterilizing the treatment area, and so on. Meanwhile, level II intra-oral dental assistants use more technical skills to perform tasks like selective coronal polishing, performing tooth whitening, applying desensitizing agents, and various other supporting tasks for dental procedures. 

    However, it’s important to note that the opportunities for a dental assistant extend well beyond a private dental clinic. Other practice environments include 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. 

    How to Earn More as a Dental Assistant 

    Now that we have the fundamentals covered, let’s go into a few insights you can use to set up your dental assistant career towards earning a more lucrative salary. 

    1.  Take On a Level II Dental Assistant Job 

    In various parts of Ontario, the median wage for dental assistants are as follows:

    • Toronto: $42,500 per year
    • Mississauga: $39,520 per year
    • Ottawa: $45,490 per year
    • Brampton: $39,790 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 need more technical knowledge and skills. 

    According to the Ontario Dental Assistants Association, The average hourly rate for a new level I dental assistant is $20.34 equating to $42,307 per year. Meanwhile, the average hourly rate for a new level II dental assistant is $22.42 equating to $46,634 per year.

     Bird’s eye view of a dental chair

    2. Gain Experience 

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

    • New level I dental assistant: $20.34 ($42,307 per year)
    • Level I dental assistant with 2-5 years of experience: $21.80 ($45,344 per year)
    • New level II dental assistant: $22.43 ($46,634 per year)
    • Level II dental assistant with 2-5 years of experience: $23.00 ($47,840 per year)

    3. Consider The Different Career Pathways You Can Take 

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

    Private Practice 

    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 salaries. Depending on your level of education and experience, you can make 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.

    Public Health, Education, Research 

    Finally, you can pursue a career in public health, which can include a variety of possible job descriptions. You can provide dental assistants in a public health facility, low-income neighbourhoods, hospitals, or in schools. You can also pursue a career as an educator, either in public services or at post-secondary institutions like Cestar College. 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 in here that may be more rewarding or engaging.

    Get Started with Cestar 

    Cestar College is a Toronto-based school offering a one-year Dental Assistant program. This comprehensive program will have you prepared to pass the NDAEB exam and succeed in any career path you choose. 

    With a combination of in-classwork, knowledge testing, and practical experience in an internship position, you will surely have a competitive edge after completing your degree – with industry connections and real patient care experience. 

    Contact us to learn more about this program, prospective career paths, and financial aid options to kickstart your new career as a dental assistant. Start preparing for your future, today!a

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