If you’re looking into the dental industry as a profession, you’re probably aware of the different positions that make up a typical dental office. Two of the key jobs on a dentist’s team include the dental assistant and the dental hygienist. While the two positions may sound somewhat similar, there are some distinct differences between the two of them. Here’s how they break down:
This is a key difference between the two positions. If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, you need to complete a dental assisting certificate program from an registered program and pass the state exam. The minimum educational requirement for a dental assistant is a high school diploma. On the other hand, a dental hygienist will need to have a degree (associate, baccalaureate, or masters) and will need to acquire a license to practice.
For more information on the requirements for dental assistants and hygienists in the state of Texas, visit The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
As a dental assistant, your job will include tasks such as appointment scheduling, administrative work, fluoride treatments, chart/records tracking, fee collecting, and patient education. When you visit the dentist, you’ve probably seen someone select the proper tools for the appointment and hand those tools to the dentist when needed. A dental assistant is the person responsible for those duties.
As a dental hygienist, your tasks will include oral examinations, radiographing, patient history assessments, tartar/plaque removal, and teeth polishing. This position is less of a general supportive/administrative job, and plays a larger role in the health of a patient’s teeth and gums.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of dental hygienists is expected to grow by as much as 19% by 2024. The growth of the dental assistant field has been projected to grow by 18% between now and 2024. Both of these growth rates are higher than the national average.
There is a significant difference between the salary of a dental hygienist and a dental assistant. An assistant’s salary averages $35,000 a year, whereas the hygienists are likely to make closer to $71,000 a year.