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 dental assisting career, 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 starting salary of a full-time dental assistant.

Luckily, a career in dental assisting includes 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 dental assistant pay scale you can expect and a few insights on how to get higher pay. Along the way, we will also cover a few important fundamentals about dental assisting and the dental industry in general.

Let’s get into it!

Dental assistants looking at x-rays

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, the topic of salary and how much you can make within the profession is also a common consideration.

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

Of course, your level of education attained, where you are working, and what your typical responsibilities are will 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, their day-to-day roles and responsibilities, and how much they make on average.

1. Educational Requirements to Become a Dental Assistant in Ontario

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

This program 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 dental assisting programs should have a similar goal of preparing students to be familiar with assisting dentists, there are some things to consider when choosing which school and program to attend, like how long the dental assisting 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 one 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 dental assistant, please refer to this other post, 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. 


While on the job, Level I dental assistants are usually tasked with patient care, preparing the patient 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 health, 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 dental assisting fundamentals, dental record keeping, job-relevant laboratory procedures, and additional necessary skills and knowledge.


With Cestar’s Level II program, aspiring learners are given formal hands-on 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 health
  • 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.

Dental Assistant’s 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 dental assisting career and earn a more lucrative salary. 


In various parts of Ontario, the median wage for dental assisting 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 require 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 position is $22.42, equating to $46,634 per year.

 Bird’s eye view of a dental chair

2. Gain Experience 

Your income will increase as you become an experienced certified dental assistant – 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:

  • 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 

This section will look closely at the different 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.


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 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 yearly as a government employee. There are also added benefits 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 dental field 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 various 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 financially with your experience and education levels. With the promise of stability and job security, this field will support your future goals while putting a smile on people’s faces every day.

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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