Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist

January 20, 2017

What is the Difference Between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist

From the desk of Lindsey Viel, RDA;  a Dental Assisting Instructor at Community Care College.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienist. Most patients think we are a nurse or the doctors wife ( um no!) Then what you will hear all the time is don’t you just clean or don’t you just clean people’s teeth. No, we both do much more than that. I am here to break down what we do in the office.

A Dental Assistant:

A Dental Assistant performs tasks that are working side by side with the Dentist or Hygienist. A Dental Assistant is responsible for sterilization, breaking down and setting up the rooms and procedures. A Dental Assistant also is required to take impressions,  x rays, vital signs, updating treatment charts, health history and clinical notes. In the State of Oklahoma you can apply and receive expanded functions which allow the Dental Assistant to assist with Nitrous Oxide N2o, taking x rays, placing sealants and coronal polishing. In the state of Oklahoma a Dental Assistant with a permit does not need C.E. (Continuing Education) hours a this point in time but if you become a CDA (certified Dental Assistant) you then would be required to have some C.E. hours. Your dental assisting permit is due every year on December 31st to the Oklahoma board of dentistry.

Dental Hygienist RDH:

A Dental Hygienist performs tasks that are more advanced and they work more independently. Many of these task include removing soft and hard deposits from teeth, using several instruments such as scalers and curettes to remove tartar, plaque and some staining whiter above or below the gum line. A Dental Hygienist in the State of Oklahoma also may give injections. A few other tasks would be taking impressions, x rays, vital signs extra and intra oral exams, periodontal and dental exams and coronal polishing. To become a Dental Hygienist in the state of Oklahoma you must have your prerequisites. Then you would have to apply to Hygiene School. These school usually only take 14 applicants a year. A typical hygiene program is two years. Once you become a hygienist you must keep up your license every year along with Continuing Education hours (C.E. hours).

You maybe wondering now what is the benefit of becoming an assistant if I want to go to hygiene school. In my opinion, we here at Community Care College are giving you the basics and solid foundation of a dental career. We are preparing you to work in a dental office. You will know how to number your teeth along with sterilization, setting up and breaking down ops. You will know how to set up for procedure. It will also show you the specialty side of dental such as periodontal, endodontics, pedodontics, prosthodontics, oral surgery and general. When you apply for hygiene school, you then can put on the application that you are a Dental Assistant and you have worked in the field. You have also made those dental connections along the way.

If you have any questions about our Dental Assisting program please feel free to contact us.

2 thoughts on “Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist”

  1. Thank you for explaining the differences between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist. My daughter is thinking about going to dental school, but she doesn’t know what one to be. I’m glad that a dental assistants work side by side with the dentist or hygienist. I think she would like that job more.