While both dental assistants and dental hygienists play support roles in the dental office and work under the supervision of a dentist, their roles seem to be interchangeable to many people outside the dental industry but there are some important distinctions in their roles at their offices. Anyone planning to choose either of these careers must know about these differences between hygiene assistant v/s dental assistant.
The differences between a dental assistant and hygienist centers around the tasks they perform at their dental clinics and their interaction with the patients. Perhaps the biggest differentiating factor between these dental support positions is that a dental assistant provides direct aid to dentists, conducting office tasks, and small, supervised jobs on patients’ teeth, while a hygienist often works one-on-one with a patient, and doesn’t have as much constant supervision. Another obvious difference is the level of education required for these two differing roles. Dental hygienists must also hold at least an associate’s degree and a state license in the field, while dental assistants may or may not need formal education, depending on the state in which they work.
Overview of Dental Assistant Role
- Working closely with patients before, during and after treatment
- Disinfecting and laying out instruments and equipments
- Obtaining patients’ dental records
- Taking impressions of patient’s teeth for study casts
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Instructing patients on oral hygiene and care
- Preparing x-ray machines, impression materials, anesthetics, and cement
- Taking and developing x-rays
- Billing patients and handling payments
- Ordering dental supplies
Overview of Dental Hygienist Role
- Collecting information about the patient’s oral and medical health history
- Polishing patients’ teeth
- Removing hard and soft deposits from teeth
- Using several tools to remove tartar, plaque, and stains
- Making molds of patients’ teeth used for evaluating treatment
- Charting patients’ dental conditions for the dentist
- Applying fluorides and decay preventatives
- Administering local anesthetics
- Removing sutures and dressings
Education requirements for these professionals include earning an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, and most programs take about three years to complete. License requirements differ among different states, but typically individuals must pass an accredited training program as well as clinical and written examinations.
The median annual wage for dental hygienists is considerably faster compared to other career fields and expected to rise further.