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

Dental assistants and dental hygienists are two job titles often used interchangably, when in fact, one is not a synonym for the other. There are actually significant differences between the two.

What do dental assistants do?

Dental assistants are the immediate aides to dental hygienists and dentists. Dental assistants support dentists during a variety of treatment procedures such as preparing machines and impressions. Dental assistants are responsible for tasks like ordering supplies, scheduling, billing patients, handling insurance forms, and other office managerial responsibilities. Dental assistants also prepare and sterilize equipment and teach oral hygiene strategies to patients. Dental assistants are typically required to be certified.

What do dental hygienists do?

Dental hygienists usually work one-on-one with patients. In addition to the duties of dental assistants, responsibilities of dental hygienists include: vital sign checks, collecting patients' oral and medical history, polishing and removing stains and plaque from surfaces of the teeth, making molds for evaluating treatment, charting dental conditions for dentists, applying fluorides and decay preventatives, administering anesthesia, and removing dressings.

Dental hygienists are required to have their associate or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene.

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