Is dental hygienist a dentist?

August 18, 2022

Is dental hygienist a dentist?
Is dental hygienist a dentist?

In hospitals, there are doctors and nurses. Similarly, in dental practices, there are dentists and dental hygienists. In fact, for every dentist in an office, there are usually two or three hygienists to assist them. The roles are distinct and different, but both are decided important. 


What are the differences between a Dentist and a Hygienist?

Several major distinctions separate a dentist from a hygienist, including: 




Both dentists and hygienists need a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology to practice. The leading difference is a dentist earns a doctorate degree and a dental hygienist does not. Like medical practitioners, a dentist must complete eight years of education at minimum. This involves four years for a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field and four additional years to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). And dentists require even more schooling if they choose to specialize. Dental hygienists only require an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, a program that usually takes two years. 



Both a dental hygienist and a dentist require a professional license to practice their respective roles. And both the hygienist and dentist need to clear an exam to obtain a license. The exam for practicing dentists will be more comprehensive. 


Job Profile 

A dental hygienist is usually the person a patient sees first for patient intake, x-rays, and cleanings. Then the dentist enters the room for formal examination, diagnosis, and treatment procedures.  


Responsibilities of the Hygienist


The main role of a dental hygienist is preventative care. A dental hygienist will:

• Handle patient intake and health history review

• Take and develop x-rays

• Perform dental cleanings to remove plaque and tartar

• Polish teeth

• Conduct screening procedures and take note of dental conditions

• Apply fluorides, sealants, and whitening agents

• Carry out tests like taking blood pressure

• Administer local anesthetic (in some regions)

• Assist the dentist in procedures

• Advise patients about oral hygiene 

• Provide instruction on products to be used at home



Responsibilities of the Dentist


Dentists can do everything a dental hygienist can do, plus more. They also:

• Administer the dental clinic

• Analyze patient statistics

• Review x-ray scans

• Examine and formally diagnose conditions

• Advise on an appropriate treatment plan

• Administer sedation

• Perform gum surgery, fillings, root canals, caps, crowns, extractions, cosmetic surgery, etc. 

• Write medical prescriptions

• Make referrals to specialists if required


A hygienist is not a dentist. Though different, both dentists and dental hygienists are partners in oral hygiene and are important for oral health. And though technically a dentist can perform all the roles of a hygienist, the duties performed by a hygienist will take a considerable load off the dentist so they can focus more on the treatments and procedures.


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