Becoming a dentist requires years of training and several degrees, but becoming a dental hygienist usually only requires earning an associate's degree. Many associate dental hygienist programs can be completed in less than two years. As health professionals, dental hygienists are often not appreciated by the public despite the essential role they play in caring for patients. Although the profession has existed since 1923, when the American Association of Dental Hygienists (ADHA) was founded, it is still one of the least appreciated careers in the health industry.
We serve more than 4,000 cities in the U.S. Department of State with more than 138,000 offices in our network. Despite your vital role in helping patients stay healthy, the public only thinks that you do routine tasks, such as scraping your teeth, helping the dentist during an exam or surgery, and offering words of comfort to nervous patients who hate going to the dentist. While hygienists are different from nurses, you can think of them as the equivalent of dental nurses when you compare oral health professionals to other medical careers.
Hygienists can care for their own patients, administer local anesthesia (at least in most states) and give you advice, as long as you also go to the dentist to be examined at least once a year. However, this easy-to-understand explanation will allow you to understand who is who in the dental office. Hygienists have between 3 and 4 years of training, while dentists have a minimum of eight years of education (more 10 to 11 years if they become specialists). Like doctors, a dentist has at least eight years of education before becoming a doctor.
If you work in a small office with just one dentist, you now enjoy your job because you help the dentist provide general medical care to patients, perform dental surgery, provide oral health education to patients and staff, screen for oral cancer, and help patients manage their oral health needs. However, they cannot provide you with the same restorative treatments that you would receive from a dentist (such as a dental filling). To become a dental hygienist, you can choose to earn an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. In addition, you add value to a dental office by keeping up with medical technology as part of your continuing education requirements.
Not only are they looking for the highest-qualified students, but also students who are enthusiastic about dentistry and have a high GPA. The dentist examines and treats the teeth, the dental hygienist cleans the teeth and helps prevent diseases, and the dental assistant helps the dentist (and sometimes the dental hygienist). When it comes to determining the differences between a dentist and a dental hygienist, dentists are doctors with at least eight years of formal education under their belt (four for undergraduate students, four for dental school, and even more if they choose to specialize). The hygienist works independently of the dentist, treats patients for preventive care and provides information on aspects such as oral hygiene, nutrition and the detection of symptoms of oral cancer or periodontitis.
Dental hygienists can both do more than an assistant can do and require more training, but only the dentist is a doctor.