How to Become a Dentist in Canada-10 Best Steps

In this article, you will learn how to become a dentist in Canada. But before that, why become a dentist in Canada?

Becoming a dentist is a rewarding and fulfilling career. 

Dentists are responsible for the oral health of their patients, which means they work with people and provide them with the tools they need to have healthy teeth and gums.

Dentists also educate their patients on how to maintain good oral hygiene, such as brushing their teeth twice a day, flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and not smoking.

Dentists are also responsible for diagnosing dental problems and providing treatment options to their patients. 

They can perform dental extractions, fillings, root canal therapy, crowns and bridges as well as other treatments that may be necessary for the patient’s dental health. Read on to find out how to become a dentist in Canada.

Studying dentistry in Canada can provide a number of benefits, including:

Excellent education and training – 

Many Canadian dentists have attended prestigious universities and completed rigorous dental training programs. 

This ensures that they have the expertise and knowledge to provide high-quality care.

Low tuition costs – 

In comparison to many other countries, tuition costs for dental students in Canada are low. 

This means that you can save money on your expenses while studying to become a dentist.

Wide range of dental services – 

Dentists in Canada offer a wide range of services, including oral surgery, dental implants, and tooth restoration. 

This means that you’ll be able to find the specialized care that you need while studying to become a dentist.

Requirements For Becoming A Dentist In Canada.

Dentistry is one of the most popular healthcare professions in Canada. 

In order to become a dentist, you need to have a high school diploma, complete an undergraduate degree in dentistry from a Canadian university and then complete the National Dental Examining Board (NDEB) national certification process.

The Canadian dental profession is made up of professionals who help patients maintain their oral health. 

Dentists examine the mouths of patients, looking specifically at their jaws, gums, and teeth. 

They look 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; they can also improve the appearance of existing teeth with braces or bleaching treatments.

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

Becoming an orthodontist doesn’t happen overnight. 

In fact, the average student needs 12 years of formal college education and/or university training before becoming a certified specialist in the field of orthodontics. 

This career usually starts with a bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of college. 

Students then apply for and gain entrance into a dental school, which takes another four years. 

Canada has 10 dental schools across the country; however, there are more than 66 dental schools in the United States that can also work well for aspiring orthodontists.

If you combine eight years of university, you can become a general dentist. However, many dentists decide to go after a specialty. 

Options include orthodontics, oral surgery, endodontics, periodontics and pediatric dentistry. 

The further requirements of each field vary but it’s common to have a master’s degree along with a residency program. 

It might be necessary to have some experience working as a general dentist before going into a specialty residency program. 

A hospital residency is one of the most common precursors for entering specialties like orthodontics or oral surgery.

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.

How to Become a Dentist in Canada

1) A High School Degree: 

This is some sort of step which most people miss but you cannot become a dentist or go to college without getting a high school degree. 

The importance of this degree cannot be underestimated so before you think about becoming a dentist, make sure to be done with high school.

2) Gather letters of recommendation:

When you are applying for dental school, you will need to submit letters of recommendation along with your application. 

You should choose people who know your work ethic and characteristics, so they can provide strong and supportive letters for you.

You can get letters from professors and any dentists you have shadowed or worked with during your undergraduate studies.

3) Apply for admission to a dental school:

Most applicants apply to more than one dental school. 

You should only apply to dental schools that are accredited by the ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation or a similar accreditation organization for your country.

Your undergraduate grades, score on the DAT, recommendations, extracurriculars, and interviews are considered in the admission process.

4) Complete coursework at a dental school: 

When you go to dental school, you will receive a doctorate degree. 

A standard program is four years, which includes coursework and clinical. You can get a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). 

These are the same degree. The only difference is the name. The dental school you go to will give out one or the other. 

You can also become a specialist, which will take a few years longer. 

The most important thing to make sure that you do is choosing a program accredited by a dental organization, like the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Dental school takes 4 years to complete. There are very few schools out there that have shorter programs than that.

5) Take the required steps if you want to become a specialist:

After you finish dental school, you may decide that you want to do something more specialized than general dentistry. 

If this is your wish, you will need to become a specialist. Becoming a specialist requires acceptance into a residency or postgraduate program. 

Then, you will continue with postgraduate education for two to six years, depending on the specialty.

The competition for dental specialty programs is rigorous and only the very top candidates will earn a position. 

You will need to be at the top of your class in dental school and be involved in research or other extracurricular activities.

There are nine recognized dental specialties: Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology, or Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics.

6) Time and Financial commitments

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.

There are some 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.

7) Qualifying (advanced standing) programs and the equivalency process for foreign-trained dentists:

Foreign-trained dentists can obtain a DMD or DDS from an accredited dental school in Canada or the United States by enrolling in a qualifying or advanced standing program. 

Typically, the program would consist of the last two to three years of a typical dental program.

The process consists of three exams:

  • Assessment of fundamental knowledge written exam. An exam based on a multiple choice question format.
  • Assessment of clinical skills exam: a practical exam on typodonts and manikins.
  • Assessment of clinical judgment written exam.

8) Volunteer in a dental office: 

The best thing to do after passing your DAT is to volunteer in a dentist’s office. Not only will it give you experience but give you confidence. 

Most dental schools want to see students who are well-rounded, with good grades and extracurricular activities. 

You can get some experience and improve your dental school application by finding volunteer work in a dental office. 

Talk to one of your professors or contact local dentist’s offices to ask about volunteer opportunities.

You may be able to shadow a dentist or help in the office.

9) Get professional experience: 

If you can manage your time effectively, get a part-time job in a dental office as a dental assistant or receptionist while you are in dental school. 

You may not be able to work more than 10 hours a week. However, this will help you gain much-needed behind-the-scenes experience at a dental office that you will not learn in dental school.

10) Decide where you want to work: 

After you graduate from dental school, you have a few options for jobs. You can open your own practice or join a private practice with other dentists. 

You may also be able to work in a hospital. Some dentists will go to work for organizations doing lab research, and others will find jobs teaching at dental schools.

Some areas, like large cities, have many dentists and the job market is more difficult and competitive. 

Many graduates from dental school find more job opportunities in rural or inner-city communities.

Demand For Dentist And Salary 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.

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.

Salaries in Dentistry vary from province to province and city to city, but on average dentists can expect to make a good living. 

The required education for a dentist varies between provinces, but the minimum requirements usually include a DDS or DMD degree from a reputable school. 

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 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 at around $85,000 per year. 

The high salaries in BC also come in lower than in other provinces, not even topping $180,000.

A lack of data or just insufficient volumes of information prevents there from 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.

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.


If you’re looking to work as a dentist in Canada, it’s possible that you learned your skills abroad but would like to transfer them here. 

There are many Canadian citizens who 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 if you’re a resident of a country other than Canada or the U.S., but residents of most nations can usually prove their skills, knowledge, and expertise to provincial or territorial regulatory authorities through a batter of exams specific to each region.

However, if you happen to have no previous skills or knowledge as a dentist before migrating to Canada, you can gain such knowledge in the country before working as a dentist. Do you have suggestions on how to become a dentist in Canada? Please leave a comment below.

Go get that degree!

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