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What’s the Difference Between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist?

Are you confused about who does what at the dentist? Dentistry is a field that encompasses a range of different positions, and during an appointment, you won’t be seen by the dentist alone. So, what is the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist?

The primary difference between the two roles centers around how much they deal with patients. They tend to undertake slightly different tasks, too. Dental assistants are there to help out the dentist. They do occasional work with patients under supervision and carry out administrative duties. Essentially, they do what the dentist needs them to do. In comparison, dental hygienists generally spend one-on-one time with patients, offering excellent customer service, and aren’t supervised to the same level. They often also need higher qualifications than dental assistants.


Dental Assistant:


As the name suggests, the primary role of a dental assistant is to assist the dentist with many aspects of the dental practice. Dental assistants have a range of tasks, from providing patient care and taking x-rays to more administrative tasks like scheduling appointments. Their job description matches their title. Dental assistants assist doctors by performing primary duties in the dental office, such as:


  • Patient interaction
  • Record-keeping
  • Small procedural tasks under the direction of the dentist
  • Assisting the dentist during procedures and examinations
  • Preparing patients for dental procedures
  • Preparing the dental consultation room with the appropriate tools and equipment
  • Administrative tasks such as billing and the scheduling of appointments


Dental Hygienist:


A dental hygienist is an oral healthcare professional who is trained specifically in preventative oral care. Dental hygienists typically have more advanced responsibilities than a dental assistant, as they work directly with patients throughout the entirety of their visit. Dental hygienists, as their title implies, clean teeth and examine patients for oral health conditions. Their job description, however, goes much beyond simple oral hygiene. Today, hygienists are independently responsible for duties once allocated only to dentists. These tasks include:


  • Performing preliminary steps in identifying dental conditions
  • Providing dental care information and advice to patients on good oral hygiene practices
  • Cleaning and scaling
  • Polishing teeth
  • Applying dental sealants
  • Perform x-rays
  • Administer fluoride
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Depending on the location, dental hygienists may also administer anesthetic, apply fillings, and remove sutures


Ultimately, as you can see from our comparison of dental assistants vs. hygienists, they’re both essential roles, and no matter which you choose, you’re sure to play a crucial part in keeping patients’ teeth healthy and happy! If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, check out the dental assistant program in Waco, Texas, we have to offer!

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