A Career to Smile About

As summer comes to an end, I have found myself having many conversations with my young adult patients about their school plans for the fall. I always find it interesting to hear about the career paths they are exploring. Personally, I can remember my own post-secondary journey and the many options that I encountered. As many people have asked me over the years about whether I would recommend a career in dentistry, it got me thinking that maybe some of you could also be wondering if becoming a dental professional would be right for you. If that applies to you, I thought it might be beneficial to know what the different professions are that make up the clinical team and the many benefits of a career in Dentistry. I have had the opportunity to work as both an assistant and a hygienist during my dental career, and I can tell you that both are rewarding positions if a career in health care is of interest to you.

Depending on the amount of schooling you want to undertake and the type of work you find most interesting, you may find becoming a Dental Assistant, a Dental Hygienist or a Dentist a rewarding career choice.  Where the confusion can sometimes lie, is knowing the difference between a Hygienist and an Assistant. When considering a career in either of these two professions, it is valuable to know what the roles and responsibilities of each are. Both professions are great if you enjoy working in a team atmosphere, enjoy a health focused profession, like working closely with people, and enjoy continual learning.

Here is a brief overview:

Dental Assisting:

  • Work chair-side with the dentist, passing them instruments and assisting with each of the different procedures.
  • Set up for each procedure and clean the rooms after
  • Takes radiographs (x-rays)
  • Takes impressions
  • Lab work: pouring up models, making mouth guards and whitening trays
  • Performs polish and fluoride treatments
  • Patient education
  • Keeps up with sterilization protocols
  • There are also options to take on administrative roles within the office
  • Schooling: Approximately one year post-secondary. There are schools available in Calgary and throughout Canada.

Dental Hygienist:

  • Performs periodontal therapy appointments (more commonly known as cleanings, which include: scaling, polishing and Fluoride treatments)
  • Takes radiographs (x-rays)
  • Performs periodontal probing (the gum measurements)
  • Patient education
  • Assists the dentist while they do the Re-care Exam
  • Set up and clean rooms, helps with sterilization protocols
  • Schooling: 2-4 years post-secondary. Only available at U of A in Alberta and other schools across Canada.

I would recommend either of these two professions. Overall, I think dentistry is an excellent choice. There are many different options for schooling and lots of job opportunities.

Here are a few benefits of working in the Dental field:

Benefits of a Career in Dentistry:

  • Working with patients, helping them achieve their oral health goals
  • Working in a team atmosphere
  • Flexible hours
  • Patient education
  • No two days are ever the same; There is always job and patient variety.
  • Continuous learning of innovative technologies
  • Competitive wages
  • You can work anywhere
  • Opportunities to do volunteer work or overseas travelling using your skill set
  • Ability to work in public health or private practices

I hope that this helps answer some questions (if you have been considering a career in the Dental field) or even sparked your interest (if you have been trying to think of a career that you’d like to pursue). If you ever have questions or want to know more, any one of us would be happy to talk to you about our experience working as a Dental Professional, giving you some more insight as to whether this is the right career choice for you.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Braeside Dental Centre


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