The profession of dentistry in Canada is regulated, meaning that for public safety reasons individuals are required to meet certain requirements and to be licensed before engaging in practice.

In many provinces the term "registered" is used in place of licensed. The responsibility for licensure/registration is one granted by the provincial governments and given to a dental regulatory authority often called a "College" or an "Association." In the province of Quebec, regulatory bodies are called an "Ordre."

To learn about how training completed outside of Canada is assessed, read this high level overview of how registration/licensing protocols work in Canada.

As of 2010 there were over 19,000 dentists in Canada performing some or all of the following duties:

  • examine patients` teeth, gums and surrounding tissue to diagnose disease, injury and decay and plan appropriate treatment;
  • restore and extract diseased and decayed teeth;
  • perform oral surgery, periodontal surgery and other treatments;
  • clean teeth and instruct patients on oral hygiene;
  • design bridgework, fit dentures and provide appliances to correct abnormal positioning of the teeth and jaws, or write fabrication instructions or prescriptions for use by denturists and dental technicians;
  • supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants and other staff.

Dental offices tend to be open four to six days a week. Many dentists practise on their own but they often work in partnerships or with associates. Dentists also work in hospitals, as administrators, researchers and teachers, and for the military.

Access to the Dental Profession in Canada

In 2004, all of the dental regulatory authorities came together and formally created the Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation (CDRAF) in order to ensure a cohesive, uniform, national approach respecting the licensure of dentists in Canada. The following general principles have been agreed to as underpinning the national process:

  • The mandate of all provincial regulatory authorities is to regulate dentistry in the public interest by registering only competent and qualified individuals.
  • A transparent, impartial, objective and fair assessment of an applicant`s competencies and qualifications will be available, regardless of an applicant`s origin.
  • The goal of any process is to establish a process based on nationally agreed upon standards, processes and programs allowing for interprovincial portability of credentials and labour mobility.
  • Only those applicants who are able to ultimately establish that they have the knowledge skills and competencies required of a general dentist in Canada, including but not limited to the successful completion of the national examination administered by National Dental Examining Board (NDEB), will be accepted for registration.

The provincial dental regulatory authorities are responsible for, with government approval:

  • setting entry-to-practice requirements
  • setting standards of practice for the dental profession
  • setting ethical standards
  • investigating complaints
  • taking appropriate disciplinary action as necessary
  • protecting the public`s right to quality dental services, and
  • providing leadership to the profession.

The rules concerning the licensure of dentists in Canada are set out in provincial legislation and by-laws. No one is authorized to practise as a dentist in any province without the provincial dental regulatory authority issuing a membership, licence, certificate or the like. There is no national licence that enables someone to practise anywhere in the country. CDRAF does not issue licenses or register dentists.

There are different classes of membership, licence or certificate depending on your situation; for example, whether a student, a visiting intern, a professor or seeking unfettered practice.

Most applicants seek a General Certificate which grants the full, unrestricted right to deliver dental services to the public. The next class of registration/licensure involving full public practice is the Specialty class, which as the name suggests is for those who completed a full-time, recognized specialty program and wish to be recognized as a dental specialist.

For information on other classes of certificate please contact the dental regulatory authority in the province applicable to your situation.