Many patients are unclear about the differences between dental assistants and dental hygienists.  Both play important roles in most dental practices, but their responsibilities are different, and your interactions with them will be too. As a patient, it’s good to know what you can expect from each. Both positions are also rewarding professions that anyone thinking about a career in dentistry might consider.

The Dental Assistant

Dental assistants prepare the examination or treatment room before a dental appointment and remove used equipment and supplies when it’s done to prepare for the next patient. Some of the dental assistant’s other duties include:

By offering direct aid to dentist, the dental assistant helps expedite and accelerate treatment.  Dental assistants may prepare equipment such as X-ray machines for use. They may also be responsible for office work such as ordering supplies, setting appointments, and billing patients.  In some cases, a dental assistant might perform certain treatments such as:

No educational degrees are required for this position, but in some states, dental assistants are required to obtain a license. (Requirements vary from state to state.) The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dental assistants earned an average of $35,390 in 2014.

The Dental Hygienist

The dental hygienist performs tasks that are more independent and advanced than those of dental assistants. Some of the duties dental hygienists perform include:

Working as a dental hygienist requires an associate’s degree in the field of dental hygiene from an accredited school. The majority of programs take three years to complete. As with dental assistants, requirements for licensing differ from state to state, but in most cases, individuals must pass written and clinical examinations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual income for individuals in this field was $71,520.

In a Nutshell

To summarize:

Both play in important role in delivering service to patients, and both represent excellent career paths, but perhaps for individuals with different life objectives.

Feel free to discuss treatments and careers with your dental assistant or dental hygienist when you visit Lane Avenue Family Dentistry in Jacksonville.