What is a Dental

What is a Dental
Hygiene Practitioner?

What is a Certified
Dental Assistant?

What is a
Dental Therapist?

Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life. It encompasses a range of diseases and conditions that include dental caries, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth loss, oral cancer, oro-dental trauma, noma and birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 estimated that oral diseases affect close to 3.5 billion people worldwide. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, cancers of the lip and oral cavity are among the top 20 most common cancers worldwide, with nearly 180,000 deaths each year.

Most oral diseases and conditions share modifiable risk factors with the leading noncommunicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes). These risk factors include tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets high in free sugars, all of which are increasing at the global level. There is a proven relationship between oral and general health. It is reported, for example, that diabetes is linked with the development and progression of periodontitis. Moreover, there is a causal link between high consumption of sugars and diabetes, obesity and dental caries.

All oral health practitioners work as members of multidisciplinary health teams in clinics, residential care facilities, hospital settings, public health units and community care centres. Client care is coordinated in conjunction with other health care providers such as dentists, dietitians, speech-language therapists, physiotherapists, nurses and social workers. All oral health providers should be focused on maintaining your teeth in good health for as long as possible, knowing that good oral health is indicative of overall health

Registered Dental Hygienists 

A registered dental hygienist is a regulated health professional who works in a variety of settings, including private practice, public health, hospitals, long-term care facilities, educational institutions and research. Dental hygienists provide a range of personalized care which includes screening for oral cancer, administering local anesthetic, reviewing your medical and dental history, taking and reviewing x-rays, removing plaque and tarter, fitting for mouthguards, applying Silver Diamine Fluoride (can stop the progress on an already formed cavity) and so much more!  Talk to your hygienist about the many ways they can help you improve your oral health.

Dental Hygiene Practitioner

In BC, legislation also permits a dental hygienist with advanced education to become a Dental Hygiene Pracititioner and this enables them to own and operate their own dental hygiene practice. These Independent Dental Hygiene Practitioners can establish different practice settings, helping the public to obtain oral care services from the most appropriate professional, when and where they need it.  For example, mobile practices bring dental hygiene services to remote communities and housebound clients, while storefront locations provide ease of access.

Certified Dental Assistant

A Certified Dental Assistant is a dental health professional who works closely with and under the supervision of a dentist. They work with patients by performing tasks before and after the dentist meets with the patient and assist the dentist during certain dental procedures.  A CDA can take and develop xrays, develop infection control protocols within an office (including preparing and sterlizing equipment and instruments), provide patients with instructions following surgery, take impressions of teetth for casts, and much more.  Check in with your CDA to learn more about what they do and the education that is required in order for them to fulfill their role on the healthcare team.

Dental Therapist

Dental Therapists are a small group of oral healthcare providers who work in underserved, and often remote, First Nations populations. They may be the primary oral healthcare professional in their community although they work under the supervision and direction of a CDSBC-registered dentist in good standing.  Dental therapists are trained to take X-rays, provide hygiene services, give local anaesthetics, provide simple direct restorations, place stainless-steel crowns and extract teeth. Dental therapists are not easy to find in BC – there are only a handful currently practicing, but we hope that will change as more education programs come online.



If you are in need of dental services, but are struggling to come up with funds, you can often receive excellent service from one of the schools that teach dental hygiene as they are running clinics to ensure their students have the very best and newest education.  Please visit the following links for more information on how to become a patient:

  • College of New Caledonia (Prince George): Dental Services
  • University of British Columbia (Vancouver): Dental Clinic
  • Vancouver College of Dental Hygiene (Vancouver): Call 604 215-7611
  • Vancouver Community College (Vancouver): Call 604 443-8499
  • Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo): Call 250-740-6240 / Details

If you aren’t so sure about the school programs, check out this link to see a list of reduced-cost dental clinics that has been prepared by the BC Dental Association.