A dental assistant and a dental hygienist are often misinterpreted to be similar dental professionals by those outside the dental industry. However, these two professionals within the dental industry tend to distinctively different. The differences between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist must essentially be understood by anyone who is planning to enter the dental industry by choosing either career field. Not only does the training that has to be undertaken for either career vary, but even the required education and the job duties of both differs as well.
In the dental office there is no doubt that dentists tend to supervise both dental assistants and dental hygienists, however their roles seem to vary.
In a dentist’s office, both preparatory and break-down duties are performed by dental assistants. Dental assistants have to disinfect and lay out instruments for a dentist; obtain dental records of patients, handle instruments to dentists during procedures and instruct patients about taking care of their teeth once they are at home, as a part of their duties. Other materials including anesthetics, cement, impression materials and x-ray machines are also often prepared by dental assistants so they can be used by the dentist. Dental assistants might also bill patients, make sure payments are received and order dental supplies, as a part of their office secretarial work. Apart from performing office management, appropriate oral hygiene strategies are also informed to the patients by dental assistants. Dental assistants, especially those who work with x-ray machines must be licensed, as a requirement of many states.
In comparison to dental assistants, the tasks performed by dental hygienists are more advanced and independent. In the past certain tasks that were merely performed by dentists are now performed by dental hygienists. As a part of their duties dental hygienists can polish patients’ teeth, remove soft and hard deposits from teeth and use several tools for the removal of plaque, stains and tartar. X-ray film can also be developed by dental hygienists. According to the state law, several other varying tasks might also be performed by dental hygienists. Thus, dental hygienists might administer anesthetic, apply fillings and remove sutures, as a part of their other duties. In the United States, dental hygienists are required to graduate from either a two year or a four year program that can be found at different dental hygiene schools. Dental hygienists happen to be very much in demand.
There is a lot more that a Dental Hygienist can do, because they can do whatever the Assistant does and add quite a lot more to it, and that includes even Oral prophylaxis, administering local anesthetics as they are trained for the same.
Salary comparison – Dental Assistant vs Hygienist
When comparing the salaries that can be earned by these two dental professionals, dental hygienists tend to get paid far more than dental assistants. Even the hourly pay rate of dental hygienists is much more. The fact that dental hygienists actually have degrees as their qualifications unlike the certificates or diplomas that dental assistants have, therefore they get paid more.
However when it comes to benefits, rather than dental hygienists, dental assistants have higher chances of receiving benefits from their employers. In any case, both dental assistants and dental hygienists happen to be important professionals within the dental industry.
The average salary (per annum) for a Dental Assistant is $34000 (a national average and it could vary a lot based on the location in the US), while that for the Dental Hygienist is around $70,000.