How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

You’ve decided you want to pursue a career in dental assisting. Great!

In doing so, you are starting a rewarding career where you can assist dentists in areas like operative dentistry, preventive dentistry, dental radiography, patient care, along with various dental procedures and essential administrative tasks that keep the dental office running. 

But how many years will it take to become a dental assistant? Well, after completing your secondary education and earning your Ontario secondary school diploma (if you live in Ontario), it will take you approximately one year to complete the dental assistant program.

Following that, you will then need to complete your final exam with the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB), the governing body that regulates all dental assistants in Canada. Pass that exam and you are officially a certified dental assistant, recognized by the Ontario Dental Assistants Association!

It’s crucial for all aspiring dental assistants to be equipped with the required theoretical knowledge and practical skill, ensuring they are prepared for every step of the journey towards starting their dental assistant jobs. That’s why Cestar College of Business, Health and Technology offers a comprehensive NDAEB-approved dental assistant program that gives all the needed preparation to ensure student success.

Keep reading to find out how to become a dental assistant, what the journey is like, and how long it will take for each stage.

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Getting Your Education


Cestar College’s Dental Assistant Program requires that the enrollee must be 18 years of age, have passed an approved qualifying test, and possess a high school diploma (for example, your Ontario secondary school diploma). 

Additionally, it’s recommended for aspiring dental assistants to take:

  • Grade 11 or 12 biology
  • Grade 11 or 12 chemistry
  • Grade 12 math

Taking these high school courses will provide you with an advantage. Biology, chemistry and math include foundational knowledge of principles, theories, and common practices within the medical field, and prepare you for post-secondary education in dental assisting programs.


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 these programs are to prepare students to successfully complete the NDAEB certification exam, giving them a competitive edge in the real-life dental industry. 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 with registered dental assistants, dentists, health professionals, and employers.


Cestar’s  Level I program prepares students for a range of basic dental tasks through comprehensive foundational training that covers dental assisting fundamentals (like how to prepare patients and clean and maintain dental instruments), how to maintain patient records, job-relevant laboratory procedures, and additional necessary skills and knowledge needed when assisting dentists.


With Cestar’s Level II dental assisting program, aspiring learners are given hands-on formal training on key dental assisting 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 for dental assistants work 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

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Dental Assisting Courses

Cestar College’s dental assisting programs include approximately 30 hours a week of class time, with 25 of those hours in-class, for a total course time of 1245 hours over 52 weeks (internship included). But don’t let this intimidate you! Your time will be divided over 19 courses that cover lots of interesting dental assisting topics such as:

  • Dental Materials Safety
  • Dental Microbiology
  • Dental Radiography Principles
  • Preventative Dentistry
  • Dental Record Keeping
  • And more! If you’d like to see the full outline of courses, visit this page for further information.

Each course varies from a total of 25-100 hours in duration. This total time will be typically broken up into lectures, seminars, independent study time, and lab experience – depending on the course you are taking. 

Broader subjects may also be broken up into multiple courses – such as Principles of Dental Assisting. This is done to ensure adequate time is given to relevant sub-topics. While this may seem overwhelming, your instructors will be here to help you throughout each of your courses to keep you on track!


Your program will also include two practicum periods, of 60 hours each, in the latter half of your training. This ensures that you gain real hands-on experience in the real-world setting. During these times, you will be under the supervision of a registered dentist and dental team to cement what you’ve learned in the classroom. 

This will give you a key advantage over other candidates when you enter the job field, and help you gain valuable connections for when you enter the workforce.


Finally, there will be three exams throughout the program to monitor your progress and prepare you for your final exam with the National Dental Assisting Examination Board (NDAEB). 

You will complete a mid-term theory exam, and once your first practicum period is finished, you will perform your Level 1 Comprehensive Practical and Theory exam. At the end of your course, you will complete one more final comprehensive theory exam to ensure you are prepared for your final certification. Theory exams take approximately five hours to complete, whereas your practical and theoretical Level 1 exam will take 25 hours.

Together, your classes, exams, and internship will take approximately one year if you complete your course through Cestar College. From there, the only step between you and your new career is the professional licensing exam, which can be completed in one day!

Taking Your NDAEB Exam


To become a fully licensed dental assistant in Canada (excepting the province of Quebec), you will need to receive the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate. Once you complete your program at Cestar College, you can complete NDAEB’s online application form and upload a passport size picture along with a copy of your official diploma and/or transcripts. There will also be a required fee for taking the exam. The full instructions can be found on this page of NDAEB’s website. Applicants would also need to take note of the NDAEB exam schedules and application deadlines

Once the NDAEB approves the application for the exam, you will receive an email from them which will include instructions on accessing your Candidate Portal and Admission letter. 


Your license can be obtained through a one-day test that is held approximately four times a year at various locations across the country. The exam itself is broken down into eight sections and will cover all of the topics covered during your program at Cestar, including patient care and laboratory procedures.


Once the certificate is obtained, it will serve as a blanket assurance that you have met the requirements to practice as a dental assistant in Canada and doesn’t need to be renewed annually like with other professions. 

You are now ready to be a practicing dental assistant in Canada! As you apply for dental assistant positions, make sure to prepare yourself with potential interview questions that the hiring manager may ask. With a variety of career options available, including private practice, military service, and public health programs, you can choose the path that aligns with your career and salary goals.

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Different Career Paths of Dental Assistants


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, which you should take into consideration before accepting a position.


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. 

Why You All Should Become Registered Dental Assistants

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. 

Have any questions for us? Want to learn more about Cestar College’s Dental Assistant (Intra-Oral Level I & II) program?

Please feel free to contact us! One of our representatives will be happy to assist you!

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