Difference Between a Dental Hygienist and Assistant

Do you want to work as a dental hygienist or an assistant? It would be best to comprehend the main distinctions between these two professions.

By doing so, you could easily pick a more worthwhile job. Discover more about the gaps between these two disciplines by reading on.

Is a dental hygienist and dental assistant the same? No, here are the distinctions and overlaps.

Difference Between Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist

Both the roles of dental assistant and dental hygienist are crucial in dentistry. Even though they frequently collaborate in an oral care facility, they each have a unique position.

Patients are evaluated and cared for by an oral hygienist. Then, a qualified assistant collaborates with an expert who manages crucial administrative duties.

What is better, becoming a dental assistant or a dental hygienist? Here is how to find out what works for you.

Dental Hygienist vs. Assistant

Employment titles hold a lot of significance in the area of dentistry. They describe the obligations and expectations of team members in the context of health.

This section will explore the differences between experts in various contexts, highlighting their respective expertise, experience, and power levels.

  • Tasks Performed

Let’s look at some dental hygienist and dental assistant differences regarding what they do.

One of the most significant contrasts between these two experts is the variety and volume of their work.

Oral care aids handle more office work than hygienists do. They are in charge of arranging and changing appointments, maintaining equipment, and finishing lab duties.

They assist with client check-in procedures, post-procedure cleanup, updating and keeping patients’ oral records, and procedures, including fillings, crowns, and extractions.

They create insurance documents, code, take imprints for teeth, and do many other things.

On the other hand, oral hygienists are in charge of numerous clinical tasks. They engage in direct patient interaction rather than acting as aids.

Along with other activities, they also provide cleanings to remove plaque and tartar, take x-rays, and take impressions of the patient’s teeth.

Additionally, they create an oral treatment plan, preserve teeth with fluoride and sealants, prepare reports for the dentist, and teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene.

  • Academic Criteria

Another significant difference between the two jobs is this one.

Dental aids typically require a two-year associate’s degree, with most university programs lasting an average of two years. Moreover, higher roles in many businesses call for a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

However, you must undergo oral assisting training at an accredited institution to work as a dental aid. While undergoing training, you will also need to obtain practical experience at a nearby clinic.

Most associate programs last 8 to 10 months or one year on average. To be qualified for assisted studies, you must have a high school diploma.

You can get a state license if you have these academic degrees. State-specific procedures, however, may apply to obtaining these documents.

Therefore, you must determine whether conditions are specific to your region.

  • Dental Assistant vs. Dental Hygienist Salary

In terms of income, these vocations are significantly dissimilar from one another. A dental hygienist typically makes around $75,500 per year, according to BLS statistics.

The hourly equivalent for these experts is around $36.30. Meanwhile, the average annual salary for dental assistants is $39,770, or $19.12 per hour.

But, a few things affect the pay of these specialists. With an average salary of $114,320, Alaska is a top state for oral hygienists based on address, employment, education, and experience.

As of 2018, Minnesota paid oral assistants the most ($49,880).

  • State Licensing Essentials

Another critical factor distinguishing the two professions is the need for licenses.

All regions require that oral hygienists be licensed, even if most states do not have explicit qualification demands for oral care aids. But you will need a CDA endorsement to increase your job possibilities as an assistant.

The certification was obtained at the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. Specific requirements must be satisfied to receive this certification.

One requires passing three competency examinations in radiation health and safety, infection control, and general chairside helping.

Similar requirements must be met to obtain an oral hygiene license. These include passing the NBDH tests and the state’s licensure exams required for your desired job.

But you must maintain your permit once you’ve received it. When renewing, you’ll be asked to finish your continuing academic conditions.

Similarities Between Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants

After reviewing the differences between these vocations, we must now assess their similarities.

Oral hygienists and assistants share some significant occupational and skill commonalities. Let’s check them to gain a deeper understanding.

  • Work Environment

The clinic is a workplace that is suitable for both vocations.

They collaborate with dentists and other employees, such as coordinators, dental technologists, oral receptionists, technicians, and technologists.

These professionals are also capable of working in settings other than dental clinics.

The likelihood of interacting one-on-one with clients is higher for oral hygienists. However, oral care aids usually move around to carry out both clinical and administrative activities.

Oral care assistants can offer various levels of support to staff members across their practice.

  • Acquired Skills

Several required skills overlap between these two occupations.

Both experts have excellent skills in coordination, communication, organization, time management, and attention to detail. Because these experts typically work with patients, communication skills are critical.

Besides verbal communication skills, strong written competency is crucial for communicating with patients and other healthcare providers.

Oral hygienists and their assistants are also skilled with manual dexterity and small tools. Coordination abilities are therefore crucial.

These individuals have the managerial skills to manage a variety of dental care supplies, multitask often, and maintain a neat office. By doing so, they can ensure that every patient has a positive experience.

These professionals can manage an appointment-based schedule with good time management abilities. They can also take into account how productive their workplace is.

What’s more? They can change plans to accommodate changes in employees or the seasons.

Last but not least, their attention to detail enables them to identify any tiny potential medical issues during inspection and therapy.

Should I Become a Dental Assistant Before a Hygienist?

Before choosing one of these careers, it would be best to take a few steps.

You must first assess your work responsibilities. Secondly, contrast their academic standards and pick the one that best suits your demands.

Of course, you can work in dentistry as a dental assistant or hygienist. However, as already established, they all possess distinctive and familiar properties.

Before choosing a path for your profession, look over their variations and relationships. They’ll help you make informed decisions regarding your career.


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