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Similarities and Differences Between a Dental Assistant and Hygienist

To the average patient, the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist might not be clear. But those who work in the field will understand that dental assistants and hygienists often perform very different tasks. At the same time, both positions also have a lot in common, and you will often find hygienists and assistants working together. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the main similarities and differences between these two positions.

Exam Set-up Duties

When it comes time to set up an exam room for a patient visit, the dental assistant will usually take the lead. However, hygienists also have some responsibility in exam preparation and set-up, and the two can often work together in preparing to receive patients.

Patient Care Duties

Dental assistants and hygienists both look after different patient care duties. Both, therefore, must be great at working with people and setting people at ease before, during, and after medical treatment. The patient’s first point of contact with healthcare staff is usually the dental assistant. The assistant will greet the patient and bring them to the exam room, where they will help prepare the patient for treatment. Then when it comes to cleaning, the hygienist will take over, as dental assistants are not legally certified to provide direct patient care. Sometimes, the dental assistant will remain on-hand to assist with keeping the patient comfortable during a procedure, or to assist the hygienist or dentist with other tasks as needed.

Technical and Medical Duties

Dental assistants and hygienists both perform technical and medical duties, but in different capacities. Dental hygienists will work in a much more hands-on capacity with patients. They are not certified to make diagnoses, but will often consult with dentists and provide advice. Hygienists also perform medical duties such as tooth cleaning and polishing, charting, applying anesthetics, and assisting dentists directly with more advance medical procedures. Dental assistants, on the other hand, perform technical and medical duties such as taking x-rays, taking patients’ blood pressure, and making study casts of patients’ teeth.

Administrative and Office Management Duties

One of the main differences between working as a hygienist and a dental assistant is that hygienists do not perform many administrative or office management duties. Dental assistants, on the other hand, are much more involved with the administrative side of a dentists’ office, and will look after tasks such as answering patient inquiries, managing and retrieving patient files, taking down new patient information, and performing billing and insurance payment duties. While dental hygienists must complete more education and training, both positions require people who are great with patient care and have a good level of medical and technical knowledge. Since dental hygienists must be licensed by the state, dental hygienist schools in Arizona can help you to receive the training you need to work as a dental hygienist. The skills you learn as a dental assistant, or at dental school Mesa AZ, can also help you to transition into a career as a dental hygienist.

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