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Dental Assisting or Dental Hygiene?

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.

Dental Assisting

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

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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