Dental Hygienist vs Dental Assistant: Which one is right for me?

HealthcareDecember 03, 2021

If you’re interested in getting into the field of dentistry, two paths you may want to consider are those of a dental assistant and a dental hygienist. While the roles may sound similar, they have different responsibilities and different education requirements. It helps to understand each position to determine which is right for you. 

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work closely with patients before, during, and after procedures. As the name implies, they assist the dentist during exams, root canals, crowns, fillings, and other tasks. Dental assistants also take and develop X-rays as well as impressions of patients’ teeth for making models. Assistants will also prepare and sterilize instruments and equipment before procedures and provide the patient with oral care instructions afterwards. In some offices, dental assistants will take care of administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and making reminder calls. 

Dental assistant training at Fortis takes about a year and students who successfully complete the program will earn a diploma and have the skills needed to pursue an entry-level position in the field.  

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are licensed oral healthcare professionals. While they may perform some of the same duties as dental assistants, their role has a different level of responsibility. For example, hygienists work closely with patients, collecting information about their oral and medical health history. They use tools to remove calculus, stains, and plaque deposits from the teeth, and they perform preventative steps like applying fluoride treatments. Hygienists make molds of patients’ teeth that are used for evaluating treatment, and they chart patients’ dental conditions for the dentist.  

To become a dental hygienist, you’ll need to complete a focused academic program and earn an academic associate degree in dental hygiene. Both dental programs offered at Fortis provide traditional classroom instruction as well as exposure to real-world learning opportunities through simulation and supervised clinical experiences.  

Whether you are interested in becoming a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, Fortis can get you started in one of our comprehensive programs. To schedule a tour at one of our campuses, visit the Dental page on the Fortis website, or call (855) 436-7847 for more information.