Dental Officer

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through Direct Entry and Paid Education.

Job description

Dental Officers practice preventive dentistry and dental treatment for oral diseases, injuries, and defects of the teeth and their supporting structures. 

As commissioned members of the Forces Dental Services, Dental Officers’ primary duty is to practice dentistry in the military setting. They may also be asked to assist other health care professionals when particular skills are required, and to teach subjects in which they have received specialized training.



Dental Officer

MAJOR JOSEPH FRANKLIN: I’m Major Joseph Franklin from Windsor, Ontario, a Dental Officer working at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.

CAPTAIN JEANETTE JOHNSON:  And I’m Captain Jeanette Johnson  from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I’m a Dental Officer currently posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

FRANKLIN:  In the Canadian Forces, Dental Officers serve our soldiers, sailors and Air Force personnel in modern clinics across Canada and on deployments and exercises around the world, focusing on outstanding patient care and continuing education. And there are opportunities not commonly available to our civilian counterparts, including Disaster Victim Identification and humanitarian missions overseas with the U.S. Navy.

FRANKLIN: I know my buddies in private practice are always saying that “This patient, we should do this, but the patient is opting for extraction because of the cost”.

JOHNSON: Well, it feels good when someone comes in with an issue and you tell them what the possible treatment plans are and you can say “This is the best treatment and this is what I think you should have” and you don’t have to go and ask “Well, how much is that going to cost and how long is that going to take”; it’s just “this is the best thing, let’s do it”.

FRANKLIN: Because you’re not afraid to talk about implants, you’re not afraid to talk about bone graft, and you’re not afraid to talk about surgical endodontics, apicoectomy.  You can talk the full story and allow them to make an educated decision.

JOHNSON: Whether it’s at home in a base clinic, in a mobile dental clinic in support of a humanitarian mission, or aboard a Canadian Navy ship mid-ocean, half-way around the world, we work with a team of well-credentialed, well-educated, very motivated professionals.

JOHNSON: Typically in the private practice, you would refer something out to somebody.  I’m lucky here, in that we have a specialist, an advanced general dentist here at our clinic.  Or if I have a procedure that maybe I’m not 100% sure that I’m ready to tackle on my own, we can do it together and there’s no better way to learn than actually seeing it and doing it with somebody who’s experienced and willing to teach.

FRANKLIN: It’s a beautiful environment in terms of, not only are there specialists that are next door to you – it’s to their advantage to help you and mentor you and bring you along, so that your skill levels develop in their areas as well as your own.

JOHNSON:  On base, we see our patients in some of the best-equipped clinics in the country, with state-of-the-art equipment, dedicated professional dental technicians, and support personnel who take care of the administration.

JOHNSON: Whether you’re currently licensed to practice dentistry in Canada, or if you’ve just been accepted to a Canadian faculty of dentistry, serving in the Forces is a uniquely rewarding career path.

JOHNSON: There’s also a part-time option as a member of the Health Services Reserve.

FRANKLIN: If you are truly interested in providing the best care possible without the limitations of finances and things of that nature, the military is the perfect environment.  We’re looking for good dentists.

MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job

FRANKLIN: I’d say the coolest part about being a dentist in the military is travel.  Travels in terms of temporary duty, which are for courses, travel for filling in behind someone who has deployed.  So the opportunity to see different parts of the country, as well as different parts of the world, is unique and great in the military.

JOHNSON: The coolest part of my job, I think, is working on people who have been all over the world, fighting for your country.  You know, they take a lot of pride in that; I get to talk to them about where they’ve been and what they’ve done.  I’ve deployed on a small, humanitarian mission, but to hear the scope of what our other soldiers, our other members of the Canadian Forces are doing, is pretty -- is pretty cool.

MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training

FRANKLIN:  There are two paths to service as a Dental Officer, depending on where you are in your career.

FRANKLIN: If you’re already licensed to practice dentistry in a province or territory of Canada, you may qualify for direct entry. You’ll walk right into an established, state-of-the-art clinic, without having to advertise for patients.

JOHNSON:  If you’re just beginning your studies, or are part-way through, the Dental Officer Training Plan may be a perfect fit for you. The Canadian Forces will pay your full tuition fees and expenses, including textbooks and instruments. Plus, you’ll earn a full salary while you’re in school, in exchange for a four-year commitment after you graduate.

JOHNSON: Like all new officers, Dental Officers start their military careers with basic training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean, Quebec. Then they move on to Borden, Ontario for the Basic Dental Officer Course – a four-week orientation to the unique facets of practicing dentistry in the Canadian Forces.

JOHNSON: Candidates in the Dental Officer Training Plan do their basic training the summer after their first year at university, and then spend their second and third summers working and training in a clinic on a Canadian Forces base. These officers do their Basic Dental Officer Course following their graduation from Dental School.

MODULE 4 – Your First Posting

JOHNSON: New Dental Officers are assigned to a base clinic, usually in a large group practice for the first year or two, and then possibly a smaller clinic or even a field unit or Navy ship.

JOHNSON: On base, Dental Officers can usually expect to work normal office hours Monday to Friday, with occasional on-call responsibilities evenings and weekends, to handle emergencies.

FRANKLIN: After three years of service, you’ll be eligible for subsidized education in a variety of specialties including oral surgery, periodontics and prosthodontics, at no cost to you.

FRANKLIN: It’s more than just a culture of continuing education.  It’s a culture of excellence.  I’ve actually just completed Advanced General Dentistry at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.  I learned so much and confirmed my knowledge that, I don’t think in private practice, I would have taken the time out to pursue post-grad.  I would have continued with the knowledge base that I learned in university and gone with that.  In terms of where I’m at in my career, I think I’m way ahead of my classmates, to tell you the honest truth, and that’s not to blow my own whistle, but I’m very very proud of the care that I’m able to give.  And that’s because of the support I’ve received from the military.

MODULE 5 – Testimonials

JOHNSON: I went for six weeks down to Latin America, and we worked on the local population down there, with a team of dentists from around the world.  Travelling to and from the ship, travelling to and from work every day on a helicopter – well, that’s not something that people get to do every day.  So, you know, you had a little bit of adventure getting to work, and then when you’re at work, you’re doing what you love, so it was a neat experience for me.

FRANKLIN: I’m about to deploy to Afghanistan. It’s an opportunity not just to do dentistry for the soldiers, but to train dentists in Afghanistan; how to improve their skills so that they can provide better care to other soldiers and to the population there.  To me, that’s an excellent opportunity because it’s part of nation building, and for me to be able to do that as a dentist is a tremendous opportunity.


Working environment

Dental Officers may be posted to a base in Canada or deployed on operations around the world. They work in a fully equipped dental office, which may be in temporary facilities, in a semi-industrial setting or on a ship at sea.

Normally, Dental Officers spend their first four years in a dental clinic in Canada. Initially, they work in a group practice; after a year or two of experience, they could go to a small one-dentist clinic or could be attached to a Field unit.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a student in the Dental Officer Training Plan is $53,000 per year. Upon completion of dental school and obtaining an unrestricted Canadian licence to practise dentistry, Dental Officers are promoted to the rank of Captain and their salary is $147,000 per year.

Related civilian occupations

  • Dentist
  • Public health dentist
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
  • Periodontist
  • Prosthodontist

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Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Dental Officers attend the Basic Dental Officer's Course in Borden, Ontario, for four weeks. They learn the set up and use of the Mobile Dental Clinic for military operations, as well as the administrative and clinical procedures of a CAF dental detachment. The training includes pre-course preparation, lectures, demonstrations, practices, individual assignments, group assignments, presentations and testing.

Specialty training

The Forces actively supports Dental Officers’ efforts to develop and maintain clinical skills in all aspects of dentistry, often providing subsidized training, participation in professional conferences and specialization:

  • Oral Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Prosthodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Public Health
  • Advanced General Dentistry

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Entry plans

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through Direct Entry and Paid Education.

Direct entry

If you already have a degree in Dentistry from a recognized Canadian university and a valid licence to practise dentistry in a Canadian province or territory, the CAF may place you directly into the required military training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Dental Officer Training Plan (DOTP)

Because this position requires a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a DDS program at a Canadian university.

For the duration of your studies, you receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full-pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates selected for this program attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months. If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice that offers a dentistry program.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Army

Serve with the Reserve Force

The role of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserve is to provide trained personnel to support, augment and sustain Canadian Forces Health Services organizations for CAF operations and training activities, while building and maintaining links between the Forces and the local community.

As a health care professional in the Health Service Reserve, you must have an unrestricted licence to practise in your clinical field (including certification in your specific specialty) and have the ability to maintain clinical currency within your civilian workplace.

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at some locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time with a military unit in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Dental Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force as members of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. They are employed to practise dentistry in the military setting and to assist other health care professionals when particular skills are required. Those employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at a location within Canada.

Another part-time career opportunity exists for clinical specialists, including Dental Specialists, to broaden the medical support capability for the Health Services by joining 1 Canadian Field Hospital Detachment Ottawa. Members of this unit complete a minimum of 14 days of service and/or training at any time during the year, doing any or all of the following: providing health care services to military members, teaching and monitoring clinical skills of personnel at a local Field Ambulance unit, attending field exercises to practise and/or provide medical care in a military field environment. Members of this unit live anywhere across Canada. There is a small headquarters and administration section located in Ottawa, Ontario to assist them. This unit provides a more flexible option than the Canadian Forces Health Service Reserve Field Ambulance Units. It does not put as much demand on your time but provides you with opportunities to work as a member of the CAF. All members of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserves have an opportunity to work overseas as members of a deployed Canadian Forces Health Services Team, on a voluntary basis.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. Applicants must have a degree in Dentistry from a recognized Canadian university and a valid licence to practise dentistry in a Canadian province or territory. All members complete Basic Military Training, which covers topics such as rank structure, wearing a uniform, marching, firing a weapon for self-defence or defence of your patients (as per the Geneva Convention), and surviving in a field environment. This training varies in length and is usually available in two-week sessions or on weekends. You must also complete basic occupational training, which teaches you how to employ your clinical skill/profession within the military environment. This training lasts six weeks and is usually available twice a year, in one-, two- or three-week sessions held at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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