Office News |3 min read

The Difference Between A Dental Hygienist and A Dental Therapist

We don’t really like going to the dentist, and it’s for a variety of reasons.

59% of adults forgo dental care due to cost, 22% because they’re afraid to go, and 19% of adults don’t go to the dentist because it isn’t convenient.

Since we use every reason in the book to avoid going to the dentist, it’s very likely that we aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to what goes on in the dentist office.

We have a general idea, sure, but how many Americans know the specifics?

For example, how much can a dentist do before an oral surgeon has to take over? What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

And the question we’ll look at today is, what’s the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental therapist? Are they basically the same, or are they radically different?

Do their job duties overlap? Does every dental office have both?

In the article below, we’ll take a look at the differences between dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Table Of Contents

  • Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists
  • Dental Therapists
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Get Acquainted
    • Hylan Dental Care

Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists

The responsibilities and how much freedom dental therapists and hygienists have from their supervising dentist will vary from state to state.

The dental hygienist typically sees the patients before the dentist, and they establish the patient’s general health and gather information about any problems they’re facing.

The dental therapist carries many of the basic duties for cleaning a patient’s teeth, but now they share many tasks that were once exclusive to dentists.

We’ll break down the two below.

Dental Therapists

Dental therapists will often place local anesthetics on a patient’s gums or dispense nitrous oxide for a patient to breathe to prepare them for oral procedures like a filling or an extraction.

They might also be responsible for removing an infected or broken tooth, as well as removing any stitches as the patients heals.

In some states, dental therapists, and not dentists, provide emergency care for those with painful oral abscesses or cracked teeth by administering antibiotics and placing temporary crowns.

Removing and adjusting spaces for people with braces can also be the responsibility of the dental therapist, but usually requires additional training.

More job responsibilities of a dental therapist are:

  • Preparing a cavity for a filling
  • Replacing gauze and dressing after teeth are removed
  • Inserting temporary caps
  • Polishing a patient’s teeth using mechanical tools

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists can remove tartar buildup and stains from a patient’s teeth using picks or ultrasonic tools.

They can also clean plaque and calcium deposits from beneath the gums.

To identify areas of recessed gums, dental hygienists can use probes.

Dental hygienists can also order x-rays and complete a thorough exam for gingivitis, mouth sores, and oral cancer.

They track their patient’s oral health on dental charts, marking areas of concern for the dentist to consult during their examination.

Other things dental hygienists can do are:

  • Cleaning and sterilizing all equipment
  • Applying protective fluorides to teeth
  • Take a patient’s blood pressure and pulse to monitor their general health
  • Educating patients on how to brush and floss properly and maintain optimal oral health

Get Acquainted

The more you know about the dentist, the more likely you are to visit.

When you learn about what everyone involved in your oral health is responsible for, it takes away some of the mystery, and some of the fear, so you can take care of your teeth.

We just learned the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental therapist, and what each of them is responsible for.

But the best way to learn about your dentist is to do it first hand and schedule a visit.

Most dentists love to answer your questions, and will gladly tell you everything you need and want to know about dentistry and oral health.

The team at Hylan Dental Care is no exception.

If you’re looking for a dentist in Cleveland, give them a call.

They’ll answer any and all of your questions, and they’ll be sure your oral health is up to par.

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