Southern Ontario Dental College

News & Updates

Dental Assistant vs Hygienist – What’s the Difference Between the Two Jobs?

Posted in Articles, Dental Assistant, Dental Hygienist, Dentistry.

Do you know how to work out the difference between a dental assistant and a hygienist? It’s something a lot of people struggle with at first, so we’ve put together this handy comparison of dental assistant vs hygienist.

Curious? Keep reading on to find out more, and you’ll be an expert in no time!

Dental Assistant vs Hygienist Summary

The primary difference between the two roles centres around how much they deal with patients. They tend to undertake slightly different tasks, too.

Dental assistants are there to help out the dentist. They do occasional work with patients under supervision and carry out administrative tasks. Essentially, they do what the dentist needs them to do.

In comparison, dental hygienists generally spend one-on-one time with patients, offering great customer service, and aren’t supervised to the same level. They often also need higher qualifications than dental assistants.

Dental Assistant

Some of the main roles of a dental assistant include disinfecting and setting out equipment ready for use and preparing and handing instruments to dentists. They also check dental records and billing patients and give patients basic dental advice.

Some assistants might partake in other tasks, including applying sealant and fluoride and giving topical anesthetic. Yet, this will differ depending on the dentist.

Dental Hygienist

In contrast, a dental hygienist will perform more patient-centric tasks. These include polishing teeth, removing deposits from teeth, and dealing with plaque and tartar. They can also develop X-ray film.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as it often depends on state law — some hygienists will carry out other tasks.

Qualifications and Future

What qualifications to both assistants and hygienists need? In some states, dental assistants need to be licensed, and some need them to complete various diploma programs.

In comparison, hygienists generally need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, usually taking around 3 years to complete. Although it can differ from state to state, hygienists generally need to pass an accredited training program and a number of written examinations.

Looking at the dental assistant salary vs dental hygienist, there’s something of a difference there. Dental assistants can expect to earn around $38,000 per year, while hygienists tend to earn almost twice that amount.

However, both fields have seen growth in recent years, and it looks like they’re both good options if you’d like to go into dental care.

Which Role Is Right for Me?

It’s evident that you need more qualifications to become a dental hygienist than you do to become an assistant. If this is a possibility, and you’re happy to work closely with patients and their teeth, it could be a suitable job for you.

If you’d rather stick to largely administrative work and interact with patients a little less, you may want to consider becoming a dental assistant. It requires fewer qualifications, but in return, you can expect a lower salary.

Ultimately, as you can see from our comparison of dental assistant vs hygienist, they’re both important roles and no matter which you choose, you’re sure to play a key part in keeping patients’ teeth healthy and happy! If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, check out the programs we have on offer!


Seats are filling up quickly. SODC is NOW accepting applications. View Programs