What Are the Differences Between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists?

dental hygienist with patient
dental hygienist with patient

What Are the Differences Between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists?

A career in the dental industry can be exciting! Dental assistants and dental hygienists both play an active role in the dental office. However, they have very different roles and responsibilities. Here are the key differences between the two:

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants work under the supervision of a dentist and perform a variety of tasks such as preparing patients for treatment, sterilizing equipment, taking x-rays, and assisting the dentist during procedures.

Dental Assistant Responsibilities

  • Preparing exam rooms
  • Chairside assistance during procedures
  • Taking X-rays and dental impressions
  • Coding patient files
  • Sterilize and set up tools and equipment

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Dental hygienists work more independently and focus on preventive care, such as cleaning teeth, taking and interpreting x-rays, and educating patients about proper oral hygiene.

Dental Hygienist Responsibilities

  • Work directly with patients
  • Clean and polish patients' teeth
  • Removing plaque and tarter from teeth
  • Applying sealants and fluoride
  • Taking X-rays

Education and Training for Dental Assistants for Dental Hygienists

Community colleges and vocational or technical schools offer dental assisting programs that can be completed in a few as ten months, while dental hygienists must complete an associate degree program in dental hygiene. In addition, dental hygienists must pass a licensing exam to practice.

Overall, while both dental assistants and dental hygienists work in the dental field and support the work of dentists, they have different levels of education and training, job responsibilities, and scope of practice.


Do you want to begin a rewarding career as a dental assistant? The 10-month Dental Assisting program at YTI Career Institute is offered at our York campus in Pennsylvania. The program is designed to prepare students to quickly start a career as a Dental Assistant. Visit our Dental Assisting program page for complete details, or, if you're ready to get started, apply today on our online application portal!