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

We have both dental hygienists and dental assistants on our staff. Do you know the difference between them? We’ll help clear up the confusion.

You know there are several different people doing different jobs in our practice, but have you ever stopped to wonder about the differences? Most people know what the dentist does, but many people don’t realize that there are both dental hygienists and dental assistants, and that they do different things! That’s partly because we’re always helping each other out in the office. There are some key differences that would be helpful to know, especially if you or your kids are curious about a career in the dentists’ office!

The Job of a Dental Assistant

Did you know you could get started as a dental assistant in less than a year? The American Dental Association (ADA) states that you can do that by earning a certificate “through academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities or dental schools.” 

Dental assistants are often the first person patients see when they come for a visit. Their job responsibilities include supportive functions from taking x-rays to teaching patients about proper oral hygiene and handling office management to sterilizing the dental instruments. They are vital staff members who help keep everything in the office clean, comfortable, and efficient. 

These essential professionals also often help dentists and hygienists during many treatment procedures, but they do not perform direct patient treatments themselves.

The Job of a Dental Hygienist

The differences between dental hygienists and dental assistants start at school. You need to earn an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in dental hygiene to become a hygienist. That means at least two years of college. Many hygienists start their careers as assistants, then go on to earn their degrees to become a hygienist. 

The person who actually cleans your teeth, removes tartar and plaque, flosses, and administers fluoride treatments is a dental hygienist. They also collect information about your medical and oral health history, chart dental conditions, make molds of patients’ teeth, and even administer local anesthesia when needed.

There is often overlap in the duties of dental hygienists and dental assistants. That’s partly because according to the ADA on the topic of dental hygienist duties, “each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, [and] the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state.” For us, it’s also because we’re all here for our patients, so any job we’re qualified to do, we’re happy to do!

Learning More about Romeoville Dental Center Hygienists and Assistants

As you may know, we’ve started sharing Staff Q&A blog posts to help you get to know us a bit better. This month, we kick off the hygienist interviews with Gayle Joyce.

We hope you know you don’t have to wait for your appointment to ask us questions. You can contact us anytime, and we’d be happy to discuss it with you on the phone. 

To schedule your visit now, fill out this form, or call our office at (708) 448-­7588.


What’s the Difference Between a Dental Hygienist and a Dental Assistant? was last modified: July 9th, 2021 by Palos Heights Family Dental