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What is the difference between Dental Hygienist and Assistant

Western Community College > Blog > Health Care > What is the difference between Dental Hygienist and Assistant

Are you considering a career in dental healthcare but unsure about the different roles and responsibilities of dental professionals?

One common confusion is between dental hygienists and dental assistants. While both work in dental offices and provide patient care, there are some notable differences in their qualifications and job duties. In this article, we’ll answer the question “What is the difference between dental hygienist and assistant” and provide a clear understanding of these two essential roles in oral healthcare. So, stay in the loop!

What is a dental hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a licensed oral health professional who works as part of a dental team to help patients maintain good oral health such as clean teeth and gums to prevent and treat oral health issues such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

What is a dental assistant?

A dental assistant works alongside dentists and dental hygienists to provide patient care. The dental assistants help with patient care by preparing treatment rooms, assisting with dental procedures, taking X-rays, sterilizing dental instruments, and providing patient education on oral hygiene.

Difference between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant:

Dental Hygienist

Dental Assistant

Requires a degree or certification May only require on-the-job training
Cleans teeth and gums, performs oral cancer screenings, takes X-rays Prepares treatment rooms, assists with procedures, takes X-rays
Provides patient education on oral hygiene Manages patient records, schedules appointments
May administer local anesthesia and perform certain procedures under the supervision Sterilizes dental instruments, orders supplies

Job duties of a dental assistant:

  • Preparing treatment rooms, sterilizing instruments, and setting up equipment
  • Assisting dentists during procedures, handing them instruments and materials
  • Taking and developing dental X-rays
  • Recording patients’ medical and dental histories and vital signs
  • Providing postoperative instructions and oral hygiene advice to patients
  • Scheduling appointments, managing patient records, and billing
  • Ordering dental supplies and maintaining inventory
  • Assisting with patient comfort and safety, and monitoring sedated patients
  • Conducting infection control procedures to maintain a clean and safe environment
  • Communicating with patients and coworkers to ensure efficient and effective dental care

Job duties of a dental hygienist :

  • Cleaning teeth and gums, removing plaque and tartar
  • Performing oral cancer screenings and taking dental X-rays
  • Assessing patients’ oral health and developing treatment plans
  • Applying fluoride and sealants to teeth to prevent decay
  • Administering local anesthesia and other medications as directed
  • Educating patients on proper oral hygiene techniques and diet
  • Managing patient records and updating dental charts
  • Conducting periodontal charting and gum disease assessments
  • Collaborating with dentists and other healthcare professionals
  • Maintaining infection control protocols and sterilizing instruments

Qualifications required to become a Dental Assistant:

  • Completion of a dental assistant program at a college or technical school
  • On-the-job training or certification may also be required
  • Some provinces require registration or certification with a regulatory body
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential
  • Knowledge of dental terminology and office procedures is preferred
  • Manual dexterity and the ability to work well under pressure are important
  • Basic computer skills may be required
  • First aid and CPR certification may be required
  • A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required
  • Some dental offices may require additional specialized training or certifications
  • CTA Title
    Get the skills towards a career in Dental Assisting
    This program helps to prepare students to provide the services of a certified dental assistant as outlined in the BC College of Oral Health Professionals (BCCHOP)* Bylaws under the Health Professions Act of British Columbia.

Qualifications to Become a Dental Hygienist:

  • Completion of an accredited dental hygiene program at a college or university
  • Successful completion of national board exams and provincial or territorial licensing requirements
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential
  • Knowledge of oral health and disease prevention is required
  • Proficiency in dental hygiene techniques, patient education, and clinical assessment is important
  • Manual dexterity and attention to detail are important
  • Basic computer skills are required
  • First aid and CPR certification are usually required
  • A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required
  • Some dental offices may require additional specialized training or certifications

Salary of a dental assistant:

The average dental assistant salary in Canada is $46,800 per year or $24 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $40,038 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $55,672 per year.  (Talent)

Salary of a dental hygienist:

The average dental hygienist’s salary in Canada is $78,038 per year or $40.02 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $65,325 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $103,982 per year. (Talent)

Conclusion:

In conclusion, dental hygienists and dental assistants are both valuable members of a dental team and play important roles in providing quality oral healthcare. While there may be some overlap in their responsibilities, there are also distinct differences in their qualifications and job duties. 

Whether you’re considering a career in dental healthcare or seeking dental services, understanding the roles and responsibilities of dental professionals can help you make informed decisions about your oral health. We hope this article has provided clarity on the difference between dental hygienists and assistants and helped you appreciate the vital contributions of these dental professionals.

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