Dental assistants have many tasks ranging from patient care to record keeping. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.
There are four regulated tasks that assistants may also be able to do, depending on the state where they work. Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants and may require them to take specific exams or meet other requirements before allowing them to do these procedures.1
While dental assistants are limited to supporting and assisting dentists, dental hygienists are licensed caregivers. Hygienist responsibilities typically include cleaning, corrective and preventive procedures from removing plaque to applying fluoride. In some states they can provide temporary fillings. Hygienists are able to perform and interpret dental X-rays, and can also conduct a variety of diagnostic tests.1,3
Training & Education
Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree in dental hygiene. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed. Most dental assistant training programs take about a year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. These programs are offered by community and career colleges. Some states require dental assistants to pass a state exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements.1,3
Dental hygienists earns a salary of $69,760 and dental assistants earn a median wage of $33,470.2