Dental Assistant vs Dental Hygienist: What’s the Difference?

In the dental clinic, there is the dentist, the dental assistant, and the hygienist. While most people know clearly what a dentist is, they may often mistake the dental assistant and hygienist for each other or assume that they are the same.

However, both roles are completely different, yet play an important part. They are both important and necessary for a clinic to be able to exist.

What Is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant works with the dentist and other dental staff in order to create a positive environment for patients. They help to prepare the treatment rooms and sterilize instruments.

They make sure that everything is set for the patient, such as setting up the dental chair, putting the water running, and making sure that the patient is already comfortable before the dentist goes in.

They also have to take charge of the dental instruments, such as sterilizing them, putting them on a tray, and making sure that there is no cross-contamination between instruments when they are being used. A dental assistant has to be very organized in order to be able to carry out their duties well and make sure that everything is done correctly.

What Are the Duties of a Dental Assistant?

The duties of a dental assistant specifically include a wide range of duties, from taking care of and sterilizing the instruments to prepping the treatment area. Additionally, they have to care for patients and make sure that they are comfortable before the dentist begins treatment. 

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is the one who does the cleaning of the teeth. They perform the most basic dental duties and procedures to make it more convenient for the dentist to diagnose and proceed with further treatment. In other words, they prepare the patient for the dentist.

What Are the Duties of a Dental Hygienist?

In the dental clinic, a dental hygienist is the one who does the cleaning of the teeth. They are the ones who do the cleaning, polishing, and scaling of the teeth. They also do oral x-rays, as well as apply fluoride to the teeth.

Also, as noted above, a dental hygienist is also the one who does the cleanings. However, they are not the ones who do the fillings.

Do We Need Both?

Having a dental assistant and a dental hygienist means that the dentist can focus on what they do best, which is diagnosis and treatment. In 

In this way, the dental clinic will run very smoothly, the patients will be well taken care of, and the treatment rooms are clean and sanitary. This will make the patients feel more relaxed and comfortable when they are already in the dental clinic.


In conclusion, dental assistants and dental hygienists are two vital parts of a dental clinic. They work together to ensure a positive experience for the patient and make sure that the dental clinic is able to run smoothly.

You can enroll in a certified dental assistant program at Northwest Suburban College in Schaumburg, IL. Our college focuses mostly on healthcare career training, perfect for aspiring healthcare professionals. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.

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