When you visit your dentist’s office you’ll meet a team of dental professionals. Get to know the different members of the dental team and how they work together to give you comprehensive care and treatment. 

The Dentist

A dentist is a doctor of oral health. Dentists and certified dental specialists are trained, skilled and regulated health care professionals. They are also the leaders of the dental team within a dental office. 

Dentists have six to eight years of education. Only a dentist can detect and diagnose dental disease. They also recommend and carry out treatment plans. Dentists can spot the early signs of tooth decay, gum disease and mouth and throat cancers, and even detect signs of other medical conditions, such as diabetes. (Your dentist can also help you understand how your oral health relates to your overall health.) Learn about the different treatments and procedures your dentist can do.

If the treatment you need may be complex, your dentist may refer you to a dental specialist. Dental specialists complete extra training and education in a specific area of dentistry. There are ten recognized dental specialties in Ontario. 

All dentists must follow ethical guidelines and professional regulations set out by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, which licenses and regulates dentists in this province. 

The Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is a regulated health care professional. They work with the dentist to provide care and treatment that helps to prevent gum disease and cavities. Under the direction of the dentist, a dental hygienist will:

  • Review your chart and medical history, as well as your current health status, to identify factors that could affect your dental hygiene treatment.
  • Scale (clean) your teeth to remove plaque bacteria and hardened plaque build-up.
  • Polish teeth to remove stains, if needed, and apply a fluoride treatment or other agents for preventive care. 
  • Measure the space between gums and teeth to help determine the health of your gums.
  • Instruct and educate you on healthy and effective oral hygiene routines.

Dental hygienists must follow ethical guidelines and professional regulations as set out by the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario.

Learn more from the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association.

The Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are formally educated oral health care professionals and their roles can be either clinical or administrative. The clinical dental assistant facilitates the work of dentists and dental hygienists in the operatory, or treatment area. They will:

  • Set up the operatory and prepare you for your treatment.
  • Work chairside by assisting the dentist throughout the dental procedure. This includes passing instruments, preparing restorative material (the stuff used for filling cavities, for example) and attending to patient comfort and safety.
  • Clean, disinfect and sterilize dental instruments and equipment in keeping with infection prevention and control guidelines.
  • Record data and information on your chart.

A dentist may direct the dental assistant to perform intra-oral procedures, such as X-rays, depending on the level of certification the assistant holds.

Administrative dental assistants, or dental receptionists, perform roles outside of the treatment room by supporting office operations, including assisting patients with insurance claims, referrals and scheduling appointments.

Learn more about the integral role dental assistants play on the oral health care team.

Dental Office Staff

Dental office managers supervise staff, establish and manage office protocols and oversee the processing of insurance claims. Receptionists are likely your first point of contact at the dental office. They will:

  • Welcome patients to the practice.
  • Answer patient questions.
  • Schedule appointments.
  • Manage patient charts.
  • Process payments.
  • Assist patients with dental insurance claim forms and billings.

Office managers and receptionists may not necessarily have an educational background in dentistry but play a key role in the efficient running of a dental practice.

Meet your dental team in person! Book your next appointment.

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