Dental Hygiene vs. Dental Assisting

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Many different aspects between dental care and all of its sciences exist. Two very commonly confused professions within dental care are dental hygienists and dental assistants. Dental care as a whole consists of removing decay, filling cavities, cleaning and polishing the teeth, x-rays, checking for cancer of the mouth and many other procedures to maintain a healthy mouth, promoting a healthier life.

In a nut shell, dental hygienists remove soft deposits from teeth, teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene, and provide other preventative dental care. They examine patients’ teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. Dental assistants, on the other hand, work side by side with the dentist to perform a wide range of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. Their responsibilities range from preparing trays of instruments to making temporary crowns.

Dental hygienists use an assortment of tools to complete their tasks. Hand and rotary instruments and ultrasonic devices are used to clean and polish teeth, which includes removing tartar, stains, and plaque. Hygienists use x-ray machines to take dental pictures, and sometimes develop the film. They may use models of teeth to explain oral hygiene, perform root planning as a periodontal therapy, or apply cavity preventative agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants (Bureau of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Dental Hygiene). They also help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, explaining the relationship between diet and oral heath and informing patients how to select toothbrushes and show them how to properly and adequately brush and floss their teeth.

Dental assistants sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare and lay out the instruments and materials required to treat each patient, and obtain and update patients’ dental records. During the actual dental procedures, assistants work alongside the dentist...
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