How Does a Dental Hygienist Differ from a Dentist?

How Does a Dental Hygienist Differ from a Dentist?

When you visit your dentist’s office, you’re usually seen by a dental hygienist as well as the dentist. In fact, if you don’t have any ongoing dental problems, your care may be primarily in the hands of a dental hygienist. This may lead you to wonder: what’s the difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist? They both care for your teeth. They perform some of the same duties – taking X-rays, cleaning and scaling your teeth, and so on. They work hand-in-hand and both play an important role in dental health care, but they’re very different jobs.

Dental hygienists are all about prevention

The dental hygienist’s main job is preventative care. Her goal – or his, as the case may be – is to make sure your teeth stay in great shape. The dental hygienist can take your dental health history and examine your mouth to assess your overall oral health. She can chart your teeth – that is, mark any problems the dentist finds or work he or she does on a map of your teeth in your dental records. She can take X-rays, clean your teeth and polish them. She can remove sutures and do fluoride treatments. She can even take the impressions needed for a mouth guard or retainer.

The dental hygienist, however, cannot diagnose or treat any dental problems like cavities or gum disease. This is the dentist’s job. Only a dentist can diagnose dental problems. The dentist performs fillings, extractions, and other treatment procedures. A dentist can also write prescriptions for medications such as antibiotics or painkillers, or prescription mouthwash, which a hygienist cannot do.

Dental hygienists are front-line educators

Another important part of the dental hygienist’s job is educating you, the dental patient, on the best way to care for your teeth. You’re the one who takes care of your teeth on a day-to-day basis. You only have a dental appointment once or twice per year, and what you do during the time between them can be the difference between a clean bill of oral health and a mouth full of fillings. The dental hygienist, therefore, will make sure you know how to brush and floss properly. She’ll answer any questions you have about preventative care and offer tips on keeping your teeth as healthy as they can be.

Dental hygienists and dentists also have differing levels of education and training. While dentists generally undergo an intensive five-year training program, dental hygienists usually complete a less rigorous program and hold a bachelor’s degree. This doesn’t, however, mean that they’re less important or less competent than dentists. They’re complementary professions that work together to promote good oral health.

At Dental Brothers, we’re committed to providing the best oral care possible whether that means treatment or primary prevention. If you’re looking for a stress-free environment that puts your needs first, consult with our caring professionals today for all your dental needs.