MASTER CORPORAL CRYSTAL RILEY: I’m Master Corporal Crystal Riley from Lawn, Newfoundland. I’m a Dental Technician currently posted to 1 Dental Unit Detachment, Halifax.
Dental Technicians are highly oral health professionals that assist and support dentists in providing dental care to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Dental Technicians work on military bases across Canada or in mobile dental clinics that serve members during domestic and operational deployments.
RILEY: I think it’s really cool to be a military dental assistant because you get a lot more opportunities. There’s positions available on a ship to work with the military dentist at sea. You can get posted to a Field Amb where you’re doing military exercises. And as well, there’s room to go on deployments, and that is a super cool experience.
Dental Technicians work as chairside dental assistants.
They take x-rays and dental impressions, and are responsible for sterilization. Daily work can include dental materials such as composites, amalgams and cements. They also perform preventative maintenance on dental equipment, as well as manage dental supplies and records.
RILEY: As a dental technician here in the clinic, you could find yourself working one week with a general dentist, one week you could be working with the oral surgeon, and the next week you could be doing x-rays, sterilization or working at the front desk. I find that there’s always a lot of variety and you’re never doing the same thing for a super long time, which keeps it interesting.
RILEY: I think one of the cool things about working in a military clinic is that when the patient comes in, we’re not limited by what we can do for them. A lot of the times, in civilian practice, you can’t treat a patient because they can’t afford the care. But when somebody comes into a military dental clinic, no matter what the issue is, we’re able to give them the best care possible.
After completing their training, Dental Technicians are posted to a dental here in Canada where they work alongside military dental officers and specialists, as well as civilian dentists and dental . This allows them to continue developing their dental assisting skills, while gaining exposure to military exercises and operations. Technicians have regular Monday-to-Friday work hours, with on-call duty evenings and weekends to treat dental emergencies.
As their career progresses, Dental Technicians have many opportunities for career advancement. They can become an administrator at a dental detachment. And there is also an option to become a registered dental hygienist with additional training and education.
RILEY: I started out dental-assisting for a general dentist and then, as I got more experience, I was able to move up and work with an oral surgeon, and then the periodontist.
In addition, Dental Technicians may have the opportunity to join the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team. Teeth and jaws are unique to an individual and can be used to identify remains. Dental Officers and Technicians selected to be part of this team receive additional training required to support the Casualty Identification Program .
RILEY: I just love the military aspect of things – the camaraderie. You get to do a lot of different things that maybe you wouldn’t see in a civilian practice. You get to travel a lot. I just love coming to work every day and feeling like I’m part of a team.