Dentist vs. Dental Hygienist: What’s the Difference?

Curious about the field of dental health? There are multiple different facets of dental healthcare. However, they can sometimes be complicated to understand. 

One of those facets includes the team that works to optimize patients’ dental health. There are several different players, each with essential tasks to conduct. Among them include dentists and dental hygienists. 

You might wonder: what is a dentist? What is a dental hygienist? What is the distinction between the two, and why does it matter?

Keep reading to learn about the difference between the role of dentist vs. dental hygienist. 

What Is a Dentist?

If you’re looking to make sure your oral health is in check, chances are you’re trying to find the best dentist for you. A dentist can be thought of as a doctor, but for teeth and the surrounding mouth.

After obtaining their bachelor’s degrees, students must attend four years of dental school. Dentists are medical professionals who undergo extensive training. Then, after two to three years of training as a dental resident, they can finally become attending dentists.

Usually, dentists do not clean and polish their patients’ teeth. Instead, they focus on analyzing x-rays to check teeth alignment, treat potential cavities, and ensure that patient’s oral health is in shape. They can also prescribe medication like antibiotics in the case of infection or perform smaller dental procedures.

While dentists can work in an in-patient hospital setting, they can also run a private practice. In most cases, dentists also supervise a team that includes dental hygienists to make sure patients receive the best care possible.

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist plays a vital role in the team supervised by the dentist.
Like dentists, dental hygienists must undergo training. In general, dental hygienists need an associate’s degree. After obtaining their degree, they will also need to be licensed by the National Board of Dental Hygiene Examination.

Dental hygienists’ tasks include cleaning teeth, using dental tools, scanning x-rays, and analyzing a patient’s oral health to report to the dentist. 

What’s the Difference Between a Dentist vs. Dental Hygienist? 

Both dentists and dental hygienists have vital roles in ensuring that patients’ oral health is in check. However, there are some key differences between their positions.

Firstly, dentists usually supervise dental hygienists. A dental hygienist works under a dentist’s discretion. In private practices, a dental hygienist will usually be directly employed by the dentist. 

Secondly, a hygienist does conduct a preliminary checkup. However, only a dentist can make an official diagnosis. Furthermore, dental hygienists cannot prescribe medication for patients’ oral health, whereas a dentist can. 

Ultimately, both dentists and dental hygienists work together to maintain patients’ oral health

More Information on Dental Health

We hope this article gave you a rundown of the differences between dentist vs. dental hygienist. While the two roles both aim to improve the oral health of patients, each performs different functions. Dentists generally supervise and have more of a leadership role, too.

Are you still curious about the fascinating field of dental healthcare or healthcare in general? Check out the health subcategory of our site for more interesting reads.

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