A frequently asked question we get is, “What is the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist?”
A dental assistant assists the dentists at chair side. Dental assistants are trained in many things to help with the dentist while doing dental procedures to make it actually more of 4-handed dentistry rather than 2-handed. They do anything from preparing instruments, managing dental materials to be placed in the mouth, suctioning during the procedure, and handing the doctor instruments they need.
Eight of our dental assistants have taken additional training for expanded functions that go beyond assisting the dentists. To name a few of these functions, they are all able to do procedures such as making and removing temporary crowns, monitoring nitrous oxide (laughing gas), placing and removing dry socket material, and testing the vitality of the tooth. Our dental assistants are primarily the ones that oversee the care for children 13 and under and do a wonderful job of working with the parent/guardian to discuss ways to help improve the patient’s dental health. They also oversee the whitening process of taking impressions, pouring up the models from the impressions, making the whitening trays from the models then instructing the patient on the procedure for whitening.
Dental hygienists have been trained to take care of and address the oral health of the patient. Dental hygienists do a procedure called periodontal probing where they measure the space between the teeth and gums called a pocket area. The numbers that are recorded help them determine the health of the mouth along with any bleeding spots. If the numbers indicate any gum disease called periodontal disease, the dental hygienist will discuss with the doctor and the doctor will decide if the disease can be helped with good oral hygiene by the patient at home and a dental cleaning by the hygienist or if the patient will need a procedure referred to as a deep cleaning or scaling and root planning. If the deep cleaning is indicated, the dental hygienist is able to do this procedure which is essentially removing all the plaque and calculus (tartar) that has accumulated below the gumline. The dental hygienist is also able to administer the nitrous oxide and local anesthetic if needed during any appointment with them.
At our office, dental assistants and dental hygienists work together, along with the dentists, as a team to help each other in order to make the clinical portion of your visit run smooth. All dental assistants and dental hygienists are able to take x-rays, discuss patient education and prepare instruments for sterilization. All of our dental assistants and dental hygienists also stay current with ongoing continuing education classes, lunch and learns, team meetings, and various trainings. All of our employees are CPR certified.
We have 191 years of combined dental assisting years with several dental assisting programs represented. Some of those colleges include DMACC, Vatterott, Marshalltown CC, Hawkeye CC, and Iowa Central CC. When going through training, assistants learn how to assist for both general and specialty dentistry, laboratory procedures, radiology and office administrative duties.
The dental hygienists at Davidson Family Dentistry have 151 years of combined years of practice. Most of our dental hygienists graduated from DMACC with an AAS degree but we also one who graduated with her AAS degree from Rochester CC and another graduated from the University of South Dakota with a BS degree. Dental hygienists have background studies in microbiology, anatomy, and chemistry classes along with their dental related classes. They are trained for dental offices, schools, public health settings or even hospitals.
As you can see, there is a difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist even though several of their roles do overlap and it may be hard to tell. Regardless, at Davidson Family Dentistry our main combined role that we focus on is serving you and making your experience here one that you leave our office with a smile on your face.
Making Smiles Happen,
Your Davidson Family Dentistry team
Posted March 21st, 2016