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What Does It Take To Get A Dentist Job In Canada?


Dentist jobs in Canada are filled by professionals who help patients maintain their oral health. Canadian dentists will examine the mouths of patients, looking specifically at their jaws, gums, and teeth, looking for decay and diseases that they can diagnose. When necessary, they treat diseased gums and teeth. They always clean teeth and help instruct their patients about oral hygiene. Dental professionals can replace any missing teeth with implants, bridges, or dentures, and they can also improve the appearance of existing teeth with braces, bleaching, crowns, or veneers.

At the time of writing, Canada has over 22,000 professionals in this tightly regulated profession. If you're considering becoming someone who joins the ranks of this necessary profession, then keep reading to learn about the educational path you'll have to take, the possible specializations, and the employment outlook.


An Overview Of Becoming an Associate Dentist or Dental Specialist


Becoming an orthodontist doesn't happen overnight. In fact, the average student needs 12 years total of formal college and/or university education to eventually become a certified specialist in the field of orthodontics. This university career typically starts with a bachelor's degree. Students usually choose a four-year bachelor of science degree. They then apply for and gain entrance into a dental school, which itself takes another four years. Canada only has 10 dental schools across the country. However, just to the south, the United States has 66 different dental schools that can also work out well.

These combined eight years of university would mean you can become a general dentist at that point. Having said that, many dentists decide to go after a dental specialty. Options include orthodontics, oral surgery, endodontics, periodontics, and pediatric dentistry. The further requirements of each field vary, but it's common to go through an extra three years for a master of science degree along with a residency program. It might also be necessary to have a few years of professional experience working as a general dentist, or just formal training before going into a specialty residency. A hospital residency is a common precursor.

Also, not every dental school in Canada is suitable for every specialty. Of the 10 schools across the nation, only seven of them provide specific graduate programs for orthodontics. On top of that, each of those schools only takes three, four, or five residents every year. That means less than three dozen positions in the whole country!

Once you wind up graduating from a dental specialty residency program, it's time for you to write the certification examination from the National Dental Specialty Board. The Royal College of Dentists of Canada is the governing body overseeing this. When you pass this exam, you're officially a certified dental specialist in Canada. Further requirements for registration and licensing apply to each individual province and territory, which is discussed in later detail further into this content.

Before you actually apply to a dental school, you should figure out whether or not it's actually a good career choice for you. Dentistry is a fascinating field, since it is simultaneously artistic and scientific. You would need the aesthetic sense of an artist, while also having enough manual dexterity to perform very precise procedures in small areas. You're also going to have tremendous communication skills as someone who can interact reasonably well with a diverse range of people. If you plan on practicing dentistry in the province of Quebec, you might even need to demonstrate proficiency in the French language.

The Pre-Admission Requirements for Dentists in Canada

While specific bachelor's degrees aren't required for enrolling in dental school, there are always going to be particular basic courses that are necessary, primarily sciences and math. On the other hand, you don't usually need advanced courses in physics or biology. The requirements can actually vary a lot between the 10 Canadian dental schools, so you need to consult any that you're interested in about their particular admission requirements. Fortunately, most of them list these on their websites.

One requirement that all have for admission is the Dental Aptitude Test, which they might list as the DAT. The Canadian Dental Association, or CDA, administers this. It's an evaluation of general academic ability, 2D and 3D visual perception, manual dexterity, and how well the applicant comprehends scientific information.

While the submission of DAT scores is a requisite component of the admission process of every Canadian dental school, these test results are just one of the factors evaluated. The DAT itself is not an actual dental school application.

Time And Financial Commitments of Becoming a Dentist

Going to dental school costs time and money. As mentioned earlier, the whole process can take more than a decade, but even a specific dental school might mean 4 or 5 years alone. As such, choosing the right school to attend is crucial.

The tuition fees vary based on each school, and are too complex and fluid to really list here. Having said that, you should know that tuition fees in Canada have been rising for some time and are likely to continue doing so in the coming years. Many students, if not most, have to obtain student loans in order to get their degrees. Fortunately, there are financial support options through scholarships, bursaries, and student loans at both the federal and provincial levels.

Possible Dental Specialties in Canada


The Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada, or CDAC, is the governing body that accredits and reviews educational programs for the nine nationally recognized specialties of the country. They are:

  • Dental Public Health

  • Endodontics

  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

  • Oral Medicine and Pathology

  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics

  • Pediatric Dentist

  • Periodontics

  • Prosthodontics

Demand For Dentists in Canada

The national demand for dentists is growing consistently. This is partly due to population growth, but also largely due to the aging of the population. Technological advancements in both diagnosis and treatment also mean more professionals are necessary. This does mean that you can likely find work anywhere in Canada, although there are two areas, in particular, you can look for the most available work. The first is pretty much any rural area in the country, as many in the profession stick to urban areas. The second would be the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, given how fast-growing they are. As you'll see in a few paragraphs, these two provinces also have some of the highest salaries and wages. If you're looking for work as a general dentist but hope to specialize later, be sure that your destination city has an educational qualifying program or applicable dental school available.

Primary Associate Dentist Employers

Many dentist jobs in Canada come from private practices. Other industry professionals might be hired by universities, public health facilities, clinics, and hospitals. Some serve in the national armed forces, whereas others work for federal, provincial, or local health authorities. If you'd like to explore potential career opportunities that are outside of dental practices, you can look into work as a researcher, administrator, dental educator, or even a sales representative.

How Much Do Dentists make in Canada

The median wage for Canadian dentists is nearly $120,000 Canadian dollars per year. Having said that, there are dramatic variations in income levels both across the provinces and within specific provinces themselves.

Manitoba led all provinces and territories in terms of dentist salaries. This province had 'low' salaries starting at around $45,000 with 'high' salaries topping $337,000.

Saskatchewan came in second with salaries running from $39,000 up to $292,000, and Alberta came in third, with salaries ranging from $65,000 to $279,000.

Quebec and Ontario mimic the numbers of Saskatchewan closely, but they both still lag somewhat behind. The notable province for paying less than the rest of the nation is that of British Columbia. Starting salaries in this province are only $24,000, and the median salaries are the only province to fall under the national average, coming in around $85,000 per year. The high salaries in BC also come in lower than other provinces, not even topping $180,000.

A lack of data or just insufficient volumes of information prevents there being median salary data or ranges for New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, or the Yukon. That's not to say there aren't openings for dental professionals in these places though, especially as rural communities often need both primary care professionals and specialists.

Dental Regulatory Authorities

The profession of dentistry in Canada is a very regulated one. However, the licensing is done at a provincial and territorial level. These various regulatory authorities are the entities responsible for the licensure and/or registration of not only dentists, but also dental specialists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. Depending on the region you want to possibly work in, you need to consult the applicable organizations:

  • Alberta Dental Association and College

  • College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia

  • College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan

  • Dental Council of Prince Edward Island

  • Government of the Northwest Territories

  • Manitoba Dental Association

  • New Brunswick Dental Society

  • Newfoundland & Labrador Dental Board Registrar

  • Nunavut Registrar's Office

  • Ordre des dentistes du Québec

  • Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia

  • Registrar's Office Dental Profession Act (Yukon)

  • Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario

International Dentists Jobs in Canada

Given how much of Canada's population growth comes from immigration, it's very possible you're looking at working as a dentist in Canada as someone who learned the profession in another country but would like to transfer your experience and skills here. Also, a number of Canadian citizens actually choose to study dentistry abroad, particularly in the United States, which simply has far more dental schools than Canada does. American credentials are usually pretty easy to bring over, but residents of most nations can usually prove their skills, knowledge, and expertise to the aforementioned provincial or territorial regulatory authorities through a batter of exams specific to each region.

In Conclusion

Whether you're a Canadian citizen looking to study dentistry in Canada, a native citizen that used an American school for your education, or an international immigrant bringing your profession from back home, it is possible to get a dentist job in Canada. Population growth, an aging populace, and advances in science, medicine, and technology make this field one rife with growth opportunities and high demand, particularly in rural areas and select provinces. It also pays really well in most provinces as well.

Going to school for this, particularly if you pursue a specialty field, of which there are nine, can take more than a decade, and the financial commitment is staggering depending on the tuition of the schools you choose to go to. Having said that, median salaries are nearly always in the six-digit range.


written by Curtis Bebek


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May 4th, 2019