What’s the Difference Between DA & DH?

Both Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists are important team members in a dental office. But, there are differences in education and duties allowable by license between the two fields.

We wanted to dig deeper into these contrasts, so we enlisted the expertise of one of our resident Concorde authorities on the subject – Diane Osso, Dental Hygiene Program Director at our campus in Aurora, Colo. Here’s what she had to say on the topic.

Differences in education between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists

Dental Assistants learn on the job or spend eight months in a certificate program, such as the diploma program offered at all 16 of our Concorde campuses. There is no licensure required and no certified education requirement, Osso said.

She said Dental Hygienists are required to complete a 17-month associate’s degree program (Concorde offers that at eight campuses). They must pass a national didactic exam and regional clinical exam and complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

Job duties of Dental Assistants

Dental Assistants work under the supervision and direction of a dentist, Osso said. They set up operatories for dental procedures and break down after the procedure.

Dental Assistants take patient vitals – blood pressure, pulse, temperature and respiration. They take most radiographs on patients.

Many DA programs teach application of dental sealants, after a dentist’s diagnosis. They are responsible for sterilizing instruments and are often responsible for tracking and placing office supply orders.

Dental Assistants also can assist the dentist during operative procedures, with handing instruments, suctioning and patient management. They also often assist Dental Hygienists with set up, break down, oral hygiene instruction, X-rays, polishing and fluoride treatments.

Job duties of Dental Hygienists

Osso said Dental Hygienists can perform any and all of the procedures listed above. In addition, they can perform periodontal data collection, including probing gingiva. They can diagnose dental hygiene issues and plan for treatment.

Dental Hygienists can scale below the gum line for non-surgical periodontal therapy with both hand and powered instruments. They can apply local anesthesia injections for pain control during therapy, as well as deliver nitrous oxide, under a dentist’s supervision.

They can write prescriptions for fluorides and other prevention products, as well as perform oral cancer screenings.

dental assistants

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