Over 104,000 Canadians are employed in dentist offices across the country.
Because only a fraction of that number are actual dentists, each office relies on two other positions to keep offices running smoothly, care for patients, and more.
Dental assistants and dental hygienists each have unique and important roles in the office.
Keep reading to learn the difference between dental hygienist vs. dental assistant, and why one might be the perfect career choice for you.
What Is a Dental Hygienist?
If you’re eager to help patients improve their oral health, a dental hygienist position may be right for you.
Dental hygienists are a dentist’s right-hand assistants. Unlike dental assistants, dental hygienists have a front-of-house position, which means that they get hands on with patient treatment.
As a dental hygienist, you’ll be cleaning and examining patients’ teeth and gums, gathering information on their health and history, applying treatments like fluoride, administering local anaesthetics for more advanced procedures, and more.
Becoming a Dental Hygienist
Before you can start working as a dental hygienist, you must put in a few years of studying.
Dental hygienists usually need a degree if they want to start practising.
With that degree under your belt, it’s time to get licensed.
You must get licensed in the state where you plan to work. Licensing requires passing a regional or state clinical exam and submitting proof, and proof of your education.
Median Salary for a Dental Hygienist
A career as a dental hygienist comes with a pretty good paycheck.
The median salary in Canada is $68,250 per year.
What Is a Dental Assistant?
Before a patient sees a dental hygienist, it’s likely that they’ll first see a dental assistant.
Dental assistants are responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a dental office.
They greet patients and help file their billing, and record-keeping and insurance paperwork. They help get patients ready for the treatments they will receive that day and may answer questions about those treatments.
Dental assistants may also help dentists or dental hygienists during a procedure and will clean and sanitize equipment afterwards.
Becoming a Dental Assistant
Unlike becoming a dental hygienist, becoming a dental assistant does not require a degree.
Instead, most states require graduation from an accredited program. This may take anywhere from nine months to a year.
After getting the education that you need, you can then take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. However, the exam is not a requirement, and you may be able to start working as a dental assistant right out of school without the exam.
Median Salary for a Dental Assistant
Becoming a dental assistant may not require as much schooling as it takes to become a dental hygienist, but it also comes with a lower salary.
The median salary for dental assistants in Canada is $40,950.
Dental Hygienist vs. Dental Assistant: Which is Right for You?
Dental assistant vs. dental hygienist is a tough decision. Both excellent careers with solid salaries and solid job security.
Consider how quickly you’d like to start your career, your ability to pay for a degree, and the salary you’re hoping for to help you choose which option is right for you.
Still want to learn more about your options?
Click here to learn more about a career in dental assisting.