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

Apr 10 2019

If you’re interested in becoming a Dental Assistant, you might be wondering: What’s the difference between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist? The two positions are commonly mistaken for one another, and while they do have some similarities, they’re actually more different than you’d think! Here are the key ways that a Dental Assistant is different than a Dental Hygienist.

  • Patient care
  • Administrative duties
  • Degree vs certificate

Patient Care

Dental Assistants work with patients before, during, and after a dental procedure. They assist the Dentist during procedures but don’t directly perform services like cleanings or fluoride administration. Dental Assistants take and develop radiographs, prepare and sterilize instruments, take impressions of teeth, and handle lab results. Dental Assistants work directly with the Dentist during a procedure rather than alone with the patient.

A Dental Hygienist directly performs dental procedures to prepare a patient for the Dentist. This includes performing services like routine cleanings, application of fluoride treatments, sealants, and treating gum disease. Dental Hygienists also remove sutures and dressings, administer a local anesthetic, and provide dental education and instruction. While a Hygienist still works with the Dentist as needed, they mostly work one-on-one with patients.

Dental assistant helps the dentist with a procedure.

Administrative Duties

Dental Assistants are responsible for most administrative duties in a dental office. These include creating and maintaining patient records, processing insurance information, scheduling appointments, answering phones, and ordering supplies. A Dental Hygienist also works with patients’ medical histories and examines radiographs, but they usually don’t work the front desk as a Dental Assistant does.

Degree vs. Certificate

To be a Dental Hygienist, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree from a Dental Hygiene program. This takes a minimum of two years to complete. You are also required to take a national board to obtain your license. All states require Hygienists to be licensed, but exact licensure rules vary by each state. However, Dental Assistants don’t necessarily require a degree. You can instead complete a certificate or diploma program like the one at Pittsburgh Career Institute. Our Dental Assistant diploma program takes roughly 10 months to complete, though program lengths vary based on school and state requirements.

Dental professional holds a mold of teeth.

Enroll in Our Dental Assistant Program!

Become a crucial member of a health team! Our Dental Assistant program at Pittsburgh Career Institute can prepare you to work with patients and assist dentists with daily tasks. For information about applying, click here! Feel free to contact us with any additional questions. We’d love to hear from you!

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