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What Is The Difference Between A Dental Hygienist and A Dental Assistant?

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What Is The Difference Between A Dental Hygienist and A Dental Assistant?

When you visit the dentist, your dental hygienist will first . . . wait a moment. Is it a dental hygienist or a dental assistant? Some may mistakenly believe that dental hygienists and dental assistants have the same job, but nothing could be further from the truth. These two occupations differ in education and duties, which are described below.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants act as an immediate aid to the dentist and have either a diploma or certificate. Their duties can include:

  • Aiding the dentist during procedures
  • Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
  • Obtaining patient records
  • Teaching patients about oral hygiene
  • Taking and developing x-rays
  • Ordering dental supplies
  • Managing the office (billing, scheduling appointments, finding insurance information, etc.)

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work one on one with their patients and have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Some dental hygienists have the same duties as the dental assistants, which also includes:

  • Cleaning teeth (brushing, flossing, removing stains, scaling away tartar, and polishing)
  • Collecting a patient’s medical history
  • Examining the mouth for periodontal disease and tooth decay
  • Charting a patient’s dental conditions
  • Applying fluoride treatments and dental sealants
  • Injecting local anesthetics
  • Removing sutures and dressings

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