When’s the last time you’ve been to the dentist? If you’re like many Americans, it might have been a while.

Before the pandemic broke out, a third of U.S. adults hadn’t been to the dentist in the past 12 months. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, that number has likely increased further. 

However, visiting the dentist is essential for maintaining your health and well-being. Professionals, including dentists and dental hygienists, help take care of your teeth and gums, preventing problems from developing.

But what’s the difference between a dentist vs dental hygienist?

Read on as we answer that question. 

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

In most cases, the first person you interact with after the receptionist is a dental hygienist. They’re the professional who helps prepare your teeth and mouth for the dentist towards the end of your appointment. 

There’s no direct comparison to nurses in the world of dentistry. However, it can help to think of your dental hygienist as the dentistry equivalent of a nurse.  

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

As most people know, dental hygienists are with you most of the time in your appointment. Because of that, there are quite a few things that they can do. 

Dental hygienists often clean your teeth, screen for serious issues like cancer, and offer dental advice that can help patients improve their dental hygiene. While they can’t supervise all types of treatments, they can administer local anesthetic. 

What Does a Dentist Do? 

Dentists are doctors who have at least eight years of education. If they specialize in a particular field, they can have even more. 

Dentists do everything that dental hygienists do, but besides just looking for suspicious areas, they can also identify and diagnose them. For example, a dentist can tell you for certain that you have a cavity then recommend a course of treatment.

They can also perform certain operations and surgeries that dental hygienists can’t. These include gum surgery, fillings, root canals, extractions, and others. 

Learn more about dentists and the dental work they do here! 

The Differences Between a Dentist and Dental Hygienist

As mentioned, the tasks of a dentist and dental hygienist differ from one another. Much of that comes from their educational backgrounds. 

Dentists have a minimum of eight years of school, while dental hygienists need a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree in dental hygiene. After graduating, dental hygienists need to pass their state’s clinical boards. However, the process as a whole is still much shorter than that to become a dentist. 

Dentist vs Dental Hygienist: Understand the Difference

While dentists and dental hygienists both perform essential roles, the responsibilities they have are different. Use this guide to help you understand a dentist vs dental hygienist. 

Are you looking to learn more about the importance of going to the dentist? If you are, make sure to check out the rest of our site for more great content. 

By Manali