How to Become a Dental Assistant Now | Cestar College
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27 Aug 2020

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

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    Perhaps you’ve decided that you want to pursue a career in dental care- great! In so doing, you are starting a rewarding career where you can assist dentists in areas like operative dentistry, preventive dentistry, dental radiography, patient care, and various essential administrative tasks that keep the clinic running. 

    But to become a dental assistant, how many years will it take? Well, after completing secondary education, it will take just approximately one year for you to complete the dental assistant program, and then you will need to complete your final exam with the National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB), the governing body that regulates all dental assistants in Canada.

    It’s crucial for any aspiring dental assistant to be equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical skill so that they are prepared for every step of the journey. That’s why Cestar College of Business Health and Technology offers a comprehensive NDAEB-approved dental assistant program that gives all the needed preparation! 

    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.

    A dentist’s office

    Getting Your Education

    1. Secondary School Diploma 

    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. 

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

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

    2. Postsecondary Education: Intra-Oral Level I & II

    After completing secondary education, the next step is to complete your Intra-Oral Level I & II certification. This year-long program will introduce you to office procedures, mandatory dental skills, and patient care.

    The Courses

    You will spend approximately 30 hours a week, with 25 in-class – for a total course time of 1245 hours over 52 weeks (internship included). Don’t let this intimidate you, though! Your time will be divided over 19 courses that cover 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, check out this page.

    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!

    Practicum Periods

    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. 

    NDAEB Exam Proper 

    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.

    Get Your Certificate

    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! You’ll be able to choose from a variety of careers, such as in private practice, military service, or public health programs, depending on your career and salary goals.

    Close up of a child receiving dental work

    Preparing for Your Future with Cestar

    When beginning a new career, you want to ensure you get off on the right foot with your education, especially when it requires a licensing exam. Luckily, Cestar College offers a comprehensive one-year NDAEB-approved Dental Assistant Program that will prime you for success as a practicing dental assistant. 

    To learn more about the program, admission, and financial aid opportunities, contact us today. There’s always someone on the line who can help you with whatever you need!

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