Let’s talk about dental hygiene vs dental assistant. The dental hygienist and the dental assistant are often mistaken for the same occupation. Albeit the two do work under the supervision of a dentist and both contribute to a dental office’s operation, they are different. We explain their differences below.
Dental Hygiene and Dental Assistant Definitions
What Is a Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists are the healthcare professionals who are responsible for providing preventative care, examining signs of oral diseases, and educating patients on oral hygiene and oral health. Dental hygienists may work with little to no supervision of a dentist.
What Is a Dental Assistant?
Dental assistants are the healthcare professionals who are responsible for assisting dentists, and performing administrative duties related to dentistry such as recordkeeping, appointment scheduling, managing billing, performing laboratory tasks, and patient care.
Dental assistants can take on more tasks. This, however, depends on state and employer. When they do clinical duties, dental assistants are under the supervision of a dentist.
Dental Hygiene vs Dental Assistant: Responsibilities
The day to day responsibilities of a dental hygienist include
⦁ Assessing the oral health of patients and report findings to dentists
⦁ Documenting patient care and dental treatment plans
⦁ Educating patients about oral hygiene and oral health
⦁ Applying fluorides to help protect teeth
⦁ Removing stains, tartar, and plaque from teeth
⦁ Taking and developing dental X-rays
The day to day responsibilities of a dental assistant include
⦁ Sterilizing dental instruments
⦁ Preparing patients for dental treatments and procedures
⦁ Handing dental instruments to dentists during procedures
⦁ Completing laboratory tasks and processing X-rays under the supervision of a dentist
⦁ Scheduling appointments
⦁ Keeping records of dental treatments
⦁ Working with patients to complete payment and billing
⦁ Instructing patients in proper oral hygiene
Both occupations require education. The education requirements to become a dental hygienist and a dental assistant are different, however. Here’s how the education part of dental hygiene vs dental assistant differs.
To become a dental hygienist, you must earn an associate degree in dental hygiene from an accredited program. Usually, these programs are a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on clinical courses. It usually takes about two years to complete these programs.
The education requirements for dental assistants for the most part depend on the state of practice. For example, in some places states, there are no formal education requirements, which allows for on-the-job training.
In other places, only those who have graduated from an accredited dental assistant program and passed the necessary exam are accepted.
Where They Work
According to BLS, 95% of dental hygienists work in a dental office. The types of dental offices where dental hygienists work include
⦁ General dentistry
⦁ Family dentistry
⦁ Cosmetic dentistry
According to BLS, 91% of dental assistants work in a dental office. The types of dental offices where dental assistants work include
⦁ Dental clinics
⦁ Oral surgery centers
⦁ Pediatric dentistry
⦁ Cosmetic dentistry
⦁ Reconstructive dentistry
Note: the rest of the dental hygienists and dental assistants either work in a physician’s office or the government.
Next, let’s talk about dental hygiene vs dental assistant salary. The responsibilities and education requirements of the two occupations are quite different.
Not surprisingly, their salary also differs. Here’s how dental hygiene vs dental assistant pay looks like.
Dental Hygienists Salary
The average annual salary of dental hygienists is about $76,000, according to the BLS. Note that this is the average. The top 10% of dental hygienists can earn well over $103,000 per year.
Dental Assistants Salary
According to the BLS, the average annual salary of dental assistants is about $40,000. The top 10% of dental assistants can make over $56,000 annually.
As you can see, the two occupations have so many differences. But when it comes to career outlook, the two are rather similar. That is, these two occupations have a good outlook.
On one hand, dental hygienists are projected to grow 6% by 2029. On the other, dental assistants are projected to grow 7% by 2029. While the growth rates are less than 10%, they are much higher than that of other occupations, which only has a growth rate of 4%.
These are how dental hygiene vs dental assistant differ. Despite their differences, both are challenging, lucrative, and rewarding careers. They are both excellent career options for those who have a passion for dentistry. Not to mention both have a good career outlook, too.