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What is the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant?
by: Dental Assistant Team

Patients always seem to confuse these two very unique and specialized functions, so I thought I would give an explanation of the differences.


Caterine, Our HygienistA hygienist is not only extensively trained, but is also required to be licensed to perform his or her duties. In Florida, they also have to continue their education and have to complete a certain number of credits every two years. (NOTE: These rules vary from state to state.) Caterine, our beloved Hygienist, is a prime example of what a top-notch hygienist should be. As part of her responsibilities, she is responsible for evaluating the patientís oral health, examining the state and health of their gums, performing cleanings (such as prophylaxis, which is a deep cleaning for those patients with gingivitis or periodontitis), taking x-rays, recording whatís known as a perio chart by measuring three spots on each tooth to determine potential pockets where trouble begins and takes root, screening for decay using the CAMBRA approach, and reviewing home care habits.

And, of course, she performs cleanings. These consist of plaque removal, where she removes deposits such as calculus with special instruments like manual scalers and a cavitron (which uses ultrasonic waves), and finally she uses polishing cups to remove stain and tartar to give her patients the brightest smile possible. No matter what cleaning a patient needs, the hygienist works independently, one-on-one with the patient and does not need any supervision by a dentist.

In our office , Caterine also offers aromatherapy, relaxation and imagery to help soothe her patients. She is very unique and brings an experience to dental cleanings and check ups you will not find in any Dental office!


Karin, Dental Assistant

My role as a Dental Assistant is primarily being an extra pair of hands and eyes for the Doctors. The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills. Unlike the Hygienist, I am not required to be licensed (although I am certified), and must be supervised by a doctor. My responsibilities are numerous:


  • I prepare operatories before procedures are performed, and stay with the patient and Doctor at all time.
  • I make sure our patients are comfortable at all times.
  • I Pass instruments to the doctor while dental work is being performed, always trying to anticipate what the Doctor will need next.
  • I am responsible for making temporaries.
  • I take records like blood pressure and dental changes and update all medical records.
  • I take x-rays, diagnostic molds, bite guard impressions, bite records, and also take photographs to document the progress of dental work.
  • I also make bleaching trays, provide bleaching treatments, and work behind the scenes sterilizing instruments, ordering supplies, taking inventory, and maintaining the highly specialized equipment in each one of our operatories.

A big part of what I do is also to explain procedures and protocols to the patient in order to set their mind at ease. I view my role as an educator, imparting knowledge to the patient and comforting them before and during the examination or procedure.

Although our jobs are quite different, both Caterine and I work together to give each and every one of our patients a dental experience unlike any other in South Florida.

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If you have any questions regarding this post, contact us at: 561-265-1998 , one of our representatives will be happy to assist you.

Article date: Nov. 01 2013

Type: Dental Office

Location: Delray Beach - Palm Beach County


  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Assistant
  • Cleaning
  • Periodontitis
  • Polishing
  • Education
  • Licensing
  • Chairside Manner
  • Deep Cleaning

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