Pursuing a career in the dental health field is a great way to make a great living in Connecticut. As part of an in-demand career, both dental hygienists and dental assistants can find employment in this rising, in-demand field. Employment is projected to grow roughly 15%, according to the CT Department of Labor.
But what is the difference between dental hygiene and dental assisting? After all, dental hygienists and dental assistants are both entry-level positions in the dental field. If you’re considering attending a dental hygienist school or pursuing a dental assistant certification, you’ll definitely want to know the difference between the two.
In general, dental assistants do just that—assist the dentist. They may have a range of tasks, from providing patient care to more administrative tasks like scheduling appointments. They perform a variety of preparatory duties in the dental office, such as:
- Disinfecting dental instruments in preparation for patient exams
- Processing patient x-rays and completing lab tests
- Providing fluoride treatments
- Obtaining and recording patient dental records
- Billing patients and filing insurance claims
- Scheduling appointments
There are many paths one can take to becoming a dental assistant. In most states, you have to graduate from an accredited dental assistant program and pass a state certification exam.
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 clean teeth and examine patients for oral health conditions, and are responsible for a variety of patient-care duties once relegated to the dentist. These tasks include:
- Conducting oral exams
- Removing tartar, plaque, and stains from patients’ teeth
- Removing hard and soft deposits from teeth
- Applying sealants, fluorides, and polish for protection
- Taking radiographs
- Documenting plans for patient care and treatment
- Providing patient education on preventive oral care, including brushing and flossing
Most employers require hygienists to obtain an associate degree in dental hygiene from a reputable career college, as well as complete the National Board exams.
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