You may think that dental hygienists and dental assistants perform the same functions in a dental clinic. Do not worry – you are not alone. Most patients who see a family dentist also have that wrong perception, maybe because their dentists perform their procedures directly. New patients can easily distinguish the difference between your dental health partners. Let us find out what information we can get with regard to the dental hygienist vs dental assistant argument.
Dental Hygienist vs Dental Assistant: Education and Certification
Technically dental assistants have it easier than dental hygienists when it comes to the training program and education. The dental assistant training program lasts one year. On the other hand, a dental hygienist needs to spend 2 years of training and schooling to become licensed. The extra year in the dental hygienist program encompasses the clinic side, allowing them to take on their own patients.
Dental assistants may focus on fulfilling the requirements set by the state where they would want to practice. Some US regions do not require formal education but would oblige on-the-job training programs instead. Typically the degree of education requirements a dental assistant needs to have allows them to be accredited with the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Want to make it official? Dental assistants can also present a certificate that their practice gets recognized by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The dental hygienists, on the other hand, require stiffer certifications and education so he gets his license. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in dental hygiene allows them to undergo proper education requirements for anatomy, physiology, dietary nutrition, radiology, pathologic studies, and patient management.
Responsibilities of a Dental Assistant:
Welcome the patient. You are the first person, aside from the clinic receptionist, who greets the patient as they go for their dental care check-up.
Perform the diagnostics. You are the person who helps the dentist perform the imagings, like x-rays
Assist the dentist or hygienist. You are directly assisting the dentist. You are the practitioner’s sidekick or right hand, so they say.
Prepare the dental instruments. As the dental assistant, you prepare the materials and tools that the dentist or hygienist would need based on the procedure required to be performed.
Clean up. As part of your overall dental care tasks, after every procedure, washing, sterilization, and storage of the instruments and other dental materials are also your responsibilities as a dental assistant.
Perform office management tasks. Because dental assistants ‘assist’ dentists, they may also fill out and organize records and process paper works. Scheduling patients, processing payments, and handling billing duties may also account for a dental assistant’s responsibilities.
Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist:
Work independently. A dental clinic can have a dentist and dental hygienist who can take on their own patients. They do not necessarily work together on one patient.
Educate patients. The dentist depends on the hygienist to conduct seminars or lectures to educate patients about proper dental hygiene.
Use prophylactic instruments. As part of a patient’s overall dental health, dental hygienists are responsible for performing deep scaling, oral prophylaxis, and other procedures for the overall maintenance of the teeth.
Administer anesthesia. Like licensed dentists, dental hygienists can administer numbing agents and use anesthesia if needed.
Dental Hygienist vs Dental Assistant: Money Matters
Looking for a higher-paying job? Opt to become a dental hygienist rather than a dental assistant. Because you can perform your own procedures separate from a dentist, you have a higher earning potential compared to dental assistants who only oversee the needs of the dental practitioners.
We can provide a rough estimate of their annual income to give you an idea about the difference in their salaries. A typical dental assistant’s annual salary on average can be more or less $41000. Meanwhile, because dental hygienists can take on their own patients, their income gets relatively higher. An average annual salary of $77000 is not unusual for a hardworking dental hygienist.
To people ambivalent to the dental business, the terms dental assistant and dental hygienist seem identical and somehow interchangeable. Conversely, there are significant and different characteristics between the two professions. Suppose you want to pursue a career in the dental industry. In that case, you must first appreciate and recognize the distinction between a dental assistant vs dental hygienist before making your career decision. Perform your research well, and it will be easier for you to distinguish each of them, from their education, experience, practice, and responsibilities inside a dental clinic.