Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist: Which is Right for You?

a female dental assistant smiling while a dentist examines a patient

You want to join the dental field, but you’re unsure if you should pursue a career as a dental assistant or dental hygienist. While many might assume these positions are the same, they are most certainly not. Yes, both dental assistants and dental hygienists work closely with the dentist to ensure patients receive top-of-the-line care, but their roles and responsibilities differ greatly, as well as the amount of schooling needed to obtain each role. Read on to learn why enrolling in a dental assisting school can lead to an exceptional and beneficial opportunity to serve as a dental assistant.

What Are the Differences Between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists?

When learning about the various roles within a dental office, you will find that the dental assistant and dental hygienist perform vastly different tasks. While one focuses more on preparation, the other is more hands-on when it comes to patient care. Here are just a few of the differences between these two roles:


Dental assistants are responsible for preparing the treatment room, assisting with administrative duties (i.e., billing, insurance, office management), helping the dentist during a procedure, and sterilizing all dental instruments and equipment. Dental hygienists clean patients’ teeth, administer anesthesia, apply fluoride, chart a patient’s oral condition, and collect medical history.


Although every state is different, a dental assistant can take dental assistant courses from an accredited program and complete a certificate or earn a diploma. It is also possible to become a dental assistant after completing an associate degree in dental assisting from an accredited school. An individual who aspires to become a dental hygienist must have at least an associate degree, but if they plan to teach or do research, a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be necessary.


To become certified, a dental assistant must complete and pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam after finishing an accredited training program or working full-time as a dental assistant. A dental hygienist must have a license to practice in any state. This requires graduated from an accredited program and passing a clinical exam.

Why Dental Assisting is a Great Option

It’s not always easy trying to determine which career path is right for you. While the idea of working as a dental hygienist might sound appealing, you should carefully consider the amount of time spent in school as well as the necessary licensure and certification needed to practice in any state. Also, you will likely spend more money to become a dental hygienist because of the amount of schooling you will need.

As a dental assistant, you can enroll in an accredited training program that takes significantly less time and money to complete. You’ll obtain all the important and necessary skills to thrive inside a dental office and make a difference in the lives of your patients. Although you will not be cleaning their teeth or administering certain treatments, dental assistants play a vital role in the success of any office.

By ensuring every treatment room is properly prepared, instruments are cleaned, and patients feel calm and relaxed during their appointments, you can help to make the dental office you work in a true success within the community.

About Dental Assistant Pro
For more than 25 years, Dental Assistant Pro has been providing aspiring dental assistants with essential knowledge and hands-on skills learning. Our philosophy is the best dental assisting training should be taught in a dental office at an affordable cost, so why not take a chance and enroll in our 10-week course schedule? It’s now more affordable than ever to become a dental assistant! To learn more about us, visit our website.

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