a young dentist is taking care of her patient

Dental Practice Careers Explained

Risio

February 23, 2022

A dental practice employs more people than just those who work on teeth. From the back-office team to the people who keep the office and administration running, each dental practice depends on a multitude of diverse professionals to remain effective and successful.

But what are each of these different positions—and what kind of experience do you need for each of them? Below, you’ll find a description of each job, along with a breakdown of the key skills and qualifications you’ll need to perform them legally. Read on and discover what you’ll need to begin a rewarding career in a dental practice.

Dental Administrator

Good administrators work on the front lines of any successful dental practice. They’re the public-facing people who welcome patients, answer phones and emails, book appointments, and reach out to remind patients when it’s time to come back for a recall exam or routine hygiene appointment.

It doesn’t stop there. Dental administrators are also responsible for informing patients about their treatment options, arranging payments, and scheduling larger dental restorative treatment appointments.

Required Skills & Qualifications

In Canada, you don’t need any post-secondary education to become a dental administrator  in a dental clinic. However, you do need a high school diploma or a GED. Since administration duties also require a lot of paperwork and interactions with others, you’ll also need to be:

  • Highly organised
  • Polite and friendly
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office and the practice’s chosen CRM software


Via Pexels.

Treatment Coordinator

In most dental practices, treatment coordinators are the main liaisons between patients and the dentists themselves. A treatment coordinator works closely with the dentists at a practice to determine each patient’s needs and then educates the patients about their available treatment options.

In some practices, treatment coordinators may also perform administration duties. However, a treatment coordinator may be required to have a better grasp of dentistry techniques and terminology, since a large portion of their work involves translating clinical language into terms patients can easily understand.

Required Skills & Qualifications

Like dental administrators, treatment coordinators are not formally required to have completed any specific post-secondary education. However, many people who are hired as treatment coordinators have:

  • At least several years of previous experience working in a dental practice
  • Specific experience as a dental assistant (this is not required, but it can be a particularly valuable asset)

Office Manager

The office manager for a dental practice is responsible for coordinating and supervising the daily activities of the staff. Essentially, they keep the wheels of the practice in motion so the dentists can focus on providing effective treatments to patients.

Office managers might have to take care of a wide range of activities during the course of any given day. These could include:

  • Managing the practice’s finances
  • Overseeing team activities
  • Ensuring compliance with government regulations

Required Skills & Qualifications

The most important qualification an office manager can have is previous experience working in a dental practice. Candidates who have previously worked as dental assistants often make excellent office managers, since they often possess back-office knowledge and the necessary interpersonal skills. Some practices may also look for office managers who have a background in business administration. Successful office managers are:

  • Excellent written and verbal communicators
  • Detail oriented
  • Great at time management
  • Familiar with office software and technology
  • Skilled at math and experienced in budgeting and accounting
Via Pexels

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants have some of the most important and versatile jobs at any practice. Dental assistants work closely with both patients and dentists, performing essential support services before, during, and after each appointment.

A dental assistant is responsible for preparing an examination room before a patient arrives, observing and recording a patient’s vitals, assisting with oral health examinations, taking  x-rays, and performing various intra-oral skills that they have been specifically trained to do. Dental assistant positions can also be gateways to numerous other jobs in the industry—including treatment coordinators, office managers, educators, recruiters, consultants, and more.

Required Skills & Qualifications

In Canada, a dental assistant needs to graduate from a licensed dental assisting program and complete the NDAEB national requirements to become licensed. Dental assistants must also be licensed to perform intra-oral duties (in every province but Quebec, where dental assistants do not perform these duties). Risio Institute provides flexible and accessible training for candidates across Canada to help them meet these qualifications and develop essential skills, including:

  • Strong listening skills
  • Manual dexterity
  • Capacity for multitasking
  • Excellent organizational abilities


Via Pexels.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists perform key services that support dentists in their work. They are often the experts who review each patient’s medical history, screen patients for signs of oral diseases or tooth decay, perform dental cleanings, take x-rays, and administer preventative care like fluoride rinses or sealants.

Dental hygienists also play a vital role in educating patients about their oral health. They promote habits like proper brushing and flossing, and recommend tools and strategies to help patients maintain the condition of their teeth.

Required Skills & Qualifications

In Canada, all dental hygienists are required to have successfully completed a dental hygiene diploma or bachelor’s degree program. These programs will provide them with:

  • Knowledge of relevant clinical practices
  • A background in oral science
  • Communication and motivational skills for working with patients

Dental Laboratory Technician

Dental lab techs primarily design and replace prosthetic devices for patients. They generally work with orthodontic devices (such as braces, retainers, and other aligners) or in restorative dentistry (to make veneers, crowns, and dentures).

Required Skills & Qualifications

Most dental lab techs have completed training through an accredited dental lab technician program. Most of these programs last for two years, and teach candidates how to:

  • Understand a dentist or orthodontist’s notes
  • Review x-rays, impressions, and photos of teeth
  • Design and create dental prosthetics using complex equipment
  • Work with various materials (including porcelain, composite resin, and others)

General Dentist

A general dentist performs many of the treatments and services most patients book appointments for. They’re the experts who conduct dental exams and oversee preventative care services. They may also perform endodontic treatments (such as root canals), and other extended services.

In some practices, general dentists may also perform specialized services like cosmetic dentistry, tooth extractions or other surgeries, gum treatments, and orthodontic work. However, specific types of training exist for each of these areas, and dentists who complete them often focus on them afterwards.

Required Skills & Qualifications

Becoming a general dentist requires the completion of an accredited university degree—typically a Doctor of Dental Surgery. Many programs require at least two years of university education before starting such a program. Dentists must also pass numerous exams after completing their programs, in order to obtain their licence for practicing in Canada from the National Dental Examining Board. These include:

  • The AFK (Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge)
  • The ACJ (Assessment of Clinical Judgement)
  • The NDECC (National Dental Examination of Clinical Competence)

Orthodontist

Orthodontists are dental specialists who focus on correcting the alignment of patients’ teeth and jaws. They may treat dental problems like misaligned teeth, bite problems, crowded teeth, gaps in teeth, or jaw alignment issues (like TMJ). Orthodontists normally use a range of devices to solve these problems, including braces, aligners, and retainers.

Required Skills & Qualifications

Becoming an orthodontist in Canada requires completion of a three-year degree (generally a master’s degree) on top of the four years of university required to become a general dentist. In addition, orthodontists must complete the National Dental Specialty Board exam, administered by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada.

Periodontist

Periodontists are dentists who focus on the tissues surrounding patients’ teeth. A periodontist often works with dental implants and helps treat various gum diseases.

Required Skills & Qualifications

Like orthodontists, periodontists must complete a three-year university program in addition to the four years required for general dentistry. Periodontists must also be certified by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada.

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform operations on patients’ mouths, jaws, or faces. These specialists perform some of the most difficult and demanding medical problems a patient can face, so the field is extremely narrow and difficult to enter.

Required Skills & Qualifications

Becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon typically requires the completion of an MSc or PhD program, along with significant clinical experience and certification by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. It can often take 12 to 16 years for a candidate to complete all of the requirements, making this one of the most exclusive positions in the entire dental field.

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