The College of Alberta Dental Assistants

How the College streamlined its operations by moving from paper-based to online licensing with Thentia Cloud.

Industry: dental 
Location: Alberta, Canada
No. of LICENSEES: 6,700

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The College of Alberta Dental Assistants (CADA) oversees the registration and renewal of more than 6,700 dental assistant licenses each year. Prior to 2019, however, it was relying on paper applications and a legacy database to manage that process. By switching to Thentia Cloud, they were able to bring the entire process online, introduce some much-needed automation to eliminate administrative overhead, and better serve the needs of Albertans.

About the College of Alberta Dental Assistants

The College of Alberta Dental Assistants (CADA) is the health regulatory body for the profession of dental assisting in Alberta. First and foremost, it’s responsible for ensuring that all Albertans receive safe, competent, and ethical oral health care. Beyond that, it must ensure that dental assistants adhere to the highest standards and ethical conduct and that they are held accountable for the care they provide.

Based in Edmonton, CADA oversees the registration and renewal of more than 6,700 dental assistant licenses across the province each year. By setting and enforcing registration requirements, CADA is able to ensure that anyone it authorizes to practice as a dental assistant has met its standards for providing safe care.

A legacy approach to licensing reaches its limits

For years, CADA relied on a custom database to manage its licensing process, created by an independent developer. And while it served its purpose, over time the team began to realize that it had a few critical shortcomings, including:

A lack of automation, which led to inefficiencies and high administrative costs

For most of the time CADA’s legacy system was in use, it didn’t support online applications. While the legacy system did briefly introduce a basic online renewal application, everyone who applied to become a dental assistant and any dental assistant who needed to change their registration status was forced to submit paper documentation.

“Handling close to 1,000 paper applications manually each year creates a huge amount of paperwork and an administrative burden,” recalls Jennifer Tewes, a Registrar at CADA. “And since nothing was automated, depending on the application type and completeness of the submission it could take us anywhere from six to eight weeks to process a single application, with us having to mail out forms and wait to receive all of the documentation we needed. Of course, printing and mailing thousands of documents every year adds a lot of cost to the process for the applicant and CADA. And then we’d have to scan and upload records into our database and manually enter all of the other relevant information. It was a lot of busy work.”

Tewes adds, “With Thentia’s platform, every application we have is readily available online and we drastically reduced our processing time. Today, most of our applications are processed within five business days, getting dental assistants to work quicker, and freeing up staff to focus on other regulatory priorities.”

Relying on a one-person solution created operational risks

Another big issue that eventually became clear to CADA was that relying on just one person for the tech they needed to manage its licensing process was highly problematic. “The developer we were working with was great,” says Tewes. “But we realized that we were exposing ourselves to significant operational risk by being so dependent on just one person. If he had won the lottery or got hit by a bus, we would have been out of luck.”

A lack of reporting capabilities

Like any regulatory body, CADA is required to share data and reports with the government around issues like labor mobility, internationally educated candidates, and registration practices. Because the database they were using didn’t have any reporting capabilities, gathering that information was always a manual and time-consuming process. “It was just another administrative challenge that took a lot longer than it should have,” says Tewes.

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Online Applications

of applications now completed online

Seamless Application

of applications completed seamlessly without requiring manual intervention

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Smiles all around: Thentia offers a better solution

Recognizing that it was time to start looking for a new way to manage its licensing process, in 2018 CADA began exploring other options. Tewes and her team first learned about Thentia Cloud through the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR), a trusted international resource for professional and occupational regulation stakeholders. In addition to seeing Thentia at CLEAR conferences, Tewes says that she had also been hearing about other regulators adopting the platform with great success.

“Given the regulatory requirements we face and the amount of personal data we’re responsible for, it was important to us that the vendor we worked with would keep our data in Canada,” explains Tewes. “Thentia checked that box. And we also really appreciated their expertise as former regulators, their commitment to data security, and the fact that there was an entire team there to support us.”

After meeting with Thentia executives, seeing a product demo, and learning about how the platform could transform all of the ways CADA was managing its licensing process, the College signed a contract in late 2018. “We were really excited about all of the possibilities and all of the interesting new features Thentia had in its development pipeline,” recalls Tewes.

After configuring Thentia for CADA’s specific needs, the College was ready to launch the platform in September 2019, just in time for the start of its annual renewal cycle. “There’s always going to be some kinks early on with any new software you’re using,” says Tewes. “And while we ran into a couple in those early days, the Thentia team worked closely with us to resolve them. We made it through that first renewal season with very few disruptions and haven’t looked back since.”

These days, all applications and renewals that go through CADA are completed online. “We get to spend our time talking to people and solving bigger issues, not processing applications and renewals, which allows us to provide a lot more value,” says Tewes. “The platform also saves us a lot of time.” The fact that it enables online payments is just one example. “We used to receive thousands of checks that we’d have to stamp and record before physically taking them to the bank. Now payment and the entire application and renewal process happens seamlessly with little if any intervention required on our end 99% of the time. The registrant does all of the heavy lifting, which really isn’t hard at all given how easy the system is to use.

Another way that Thentia Cloud helps cut down on administrative overhead is with the reporting capabilities it delivers. “There are so many reporting templates that come right out of the box that make it easy to instantly get the data we’re responsible for reporting,” notes Tewes. “That’s been the icing on the cake.”

Tewes also says that adopting Thentia has saved CADA from having to hire the additional staff they would inevitably need if they were still manually processing applications and renewals. She also looks forward to new functionality that she’s requested, such as having Thentia consolidate the five different applications on its website into one smart application that captures the correct information based on the user’s specific use case.

“Thentia Cloud is a great product. It’s powerful, easy to use, and has really helped to streamline a lot of the manual processes that used to take up so much of our time and resources. We’re really happy that we made the switch.”

Jennifer Tewes, Registrar

The College of Alberta Dental Assistants


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