Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care. A registered dental hygienist (RDH) is a licensed dental professional who specializes in preventive oral health, typically focusing on techniques in oral hygiene. Dental hygienists provide three types of services to their patients. The first of these is preventive services to promote and maintain good oral health. The second is educational services to help patients develop behaviors that promote better oral heath and help them understand the importance of practicing these behaviors. The third type of service provided is therapeutic services which are treatments meant to stop disease and maintain healthy tissues in the mouth. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health. A career as a dental hygienist offers a wide range of challenges. In the dental office, the dentist and the dental hygienist work together to meet the oral health needs of patients. Since each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state.
Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from patient care to record keeping, in a dental office. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work. Dental assistants assist the dental operator (dentist or other treating dental auxiliary) provide more efficient dental treatment, by preparing the patient for treatment, sterilizing instruments, passing instruments during the procedure, holding a suction device, exposing dental radiographs, taking impressions, and fabricating provisional crowns. Dental operators can focus more time on the procedure, the dental assistant then effectively becomes the operator's extra hands. Dental assistants should be distinguished from dental hygienist, who usually have a higher level of training & expertise. There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and possibly pass a state exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements. Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training. The dentist or other dental assistants in the office teach the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly.