If you’re unfamiliar with the world of dental careers, it’s easy to mix up a dental assistant and a dental hygienist, or even assume they are one and the same. While both positions work under the supervision of a dentist, they perform separate tasks and have a different level of interaction with patients. Both are invaluable roles in the dental field with promising outlooks in career growth.
What Is A Dental Assistant?
When visiting your dentist, did you ever notice that friendly face greeting you upon arrival? Chances are this associate was a dental assistant. This employee is responsible for a significant amount of administrative and dental office tasks. They are often the first person you interact with and will help you before and after you meet the dentist.
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants have contact with you from the moment you walk into the dental office. They help ensure your comfort and set up the room for dental treatments, among many other responsibilities. Below you’ll find some of the most common duties of a dental assistant.
- Disinfecting and laying out dental tools
- Obtaining and organizing dental records
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Coaching patients on oral care
- Preparing x-rays, impression materials, and anesthetics
- Billing patients and handling payments
- Ordering dental supplies
What Is A Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists are licensed dental employees whose duties largely center around dental prevention through direct contact with patients. They’re obligated to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, allowing them to provide educational, clinical, and administrative services that focus on supporting your oral and overall health.
What Are the Roles of a Dental Hygienist?
For dental hygienists, cleaning and polishing your teeth is just the beginning. Hygienists examine your teeth and gums and look out for signs of oral health concerns like gum disease. They offer insights and educate you about the importance of good oral hygiene and preventive care.
A day in the life of a dental hygienist can include:
- Working directly with patients
- Removing plaque, tarter, and stains from teeth
- Taking and processing x-rays
- Assessing your oral health and sharing details with the dentist
- Recording treatments and procedures
- Documenting dental care plans
- Appling sealants and fluoride
- Providing advice on food, drinks, and types of toothbrushes
Can Duties Vary by State?
Yes! In some states, dental assistants can perform teeth polishing, sealing, and applying fluoride. Some states allow dental hygienists to diagnose dental and oral health diseases.
Education Requirements for Dental Assistants & Hygienists
Typically, to become a dental assistant, you must earn a nationally recognized certification. Certain states have regulations that require you to complete a one-year certificate or diploma program. Most dental hygienists must earn an associate degree in dental hygiene, which often takes about three years to complete.
License requirements differ from state to state. However, you must typically pass an accredited training program as well as clinical and written examinations.
Becoming a dental assistant can boost your potential in the dental field. As a dental assistant, you can get working in a dental practice sooner. Obtaining a dental assistant certification can also provide the base training you need to help further your education and career!
At Summit Dental Assisting Academy, we’re here to provide you with the hands-on training and real-life skills to achieve a promising career in dental assisting. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable Lee's Summit team to begin your certification program today!