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Dental Hygienist vs. Dentist: What's the Difference?

When it comes to taking care of your oral health, you have two key players – a dental hygienist and a dentist. While they both play an important role in ensuring good oral health, there are some distinct differences between the two professions.

What’s the difference between a dental hygienist and a dentist?

Very easy.

First, a dentist is a doctor. They went to dental school, which is essentially a medical school for the teeth and the hygienist is not a doctor, so that’s the first off. That’s a huge difference.

A dentist needs to do four years of Undergrad and four years of dental school, so a minimum of eight years of college to become a dentist.

If you want to specialize, if you want to be an endodontist or an oral surgeon or an orthodontist, you can specialize and do even more schooling, but the minimum is eight years of college for a dentist, for a hygienist.

Sure you couldn’t do it years of college, but you don’t need to. The minimum is generally three years. You could probably get by in three years with dental hygiene.

If you want to see my video explaining all the different routes and all the different schooling options to become a hygienist, you can click this video here.

Did you happen to read the difference between the assistant and hygienist yet? Anybody? Well, if you did, my bugs life hierarchy metaphor is, I’m proud of it.

I’m going to use that right now to explain the difference between a dentist and hygienist. The hygienist has his or her duties and can also do everything that an assistant does. Then there’s the dentist.

Of course, the dentist has his or her duties and they could do everything the assistant does and everything the hygienist does because they are the doctor and they either own the office or they are your boss at the office.

The duties of a hygienist, I already said in my other video, which is including but not limited to everything from cleaning teeth and administering local anesthetic to sterilizing instruments, taking x-rays, all that good stuff.

But the basic thing is the hygienist cleans your teeth.

Now a dentist, this is the person who comes in, checks for any cavities is able to diagnose things, so they’re the ones that are going to come in and be like, you have a cavity.

Hygienists can technically say, this tooth looks suspicious, so that’s all at your normal preventative appointment. Now, if you do have something going on, this is when you’ll see the dentist a lot more. I

f you have a cavity, you’re going to see the dentist for a filling. The hygienist is not going to do a filling. Basically, if you need any restorative work, that’s going to be the dentist.

Some dentists even do their own root canals or send you to a specialist if you need to see a specialist for the extraction or some kind of gum issue like periodontal surgery.

In conclusion, the dentist is a doctor, the hygienist isn’t the doctor! Very easy. 🥰


Who makes more money a dentist or a dental hygienist? lists the median hourly rate for an RDH at $34.27 and the median annual salary at $57,509. The median hourly rate of a dentist is $66.56, and the median annual salary is listed at $125,174.

Is dental hygiene a good career choice?

US News and Report recently ranked dental hygiene seventeenth on its 2019 list of the 100 Best Jobs. It achieved an overall score of 7.4/10 and the prestigious ranking of first on the Best Health Care Support Jobs of 2019

Is the dental hygiene program hard?

Hygiene school. Some may read those words and remember the tears shed and their overwhelmed and stressed feelings. Others may remember the wonderful times, friends they made, and the joy of hard work turning into success. The dental hygiene program is vigorous

What is the highest paying states for a dental hygienist?

The states and districts that pay Dental Hygienists the highest mean salary are Alaska ($114,320), California ($100,830), Washington ($90,690), Arizona ($85,890), and New Jersey ($85,860).

How much do dental hygienist make 2023?

The average Dental Hygienist salary in the United States is $75,169 as of April 27, 2020, but the range typically falls between $64,516 and $85,562.

What is the starting pay for dental hygienist?

Entry level positions start at $54,600 per year while most experienced workers make up to $100,425 per year.

Is nursing harder than dental hygiene?

Yes DH is harder than Nursing. I am currently a Dental Hygiene student and I can tell you that for a DH degree more classes are involved.. such as physical science classes. In Nursing the only prerequisites are A&P and Microbiology.

Is dental hygienist a stressful job?

More than half of dental hygienists feel stressed by their jobs on a daily or weekly basis, and 67% believe a supervisor or workload is the cause of the stress, according to a survey conducted by RDH eVillage in January 2020. A silver lining is that the stress does not spill over into dental hygienists‘ personal lives