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What Is The Difference Between A Dentist And A Dental Hygienist?

Difference Between A Dentist And A Dental Hygienist

In hospitals there are doctors and nurses, in dental offices, you have dentists and dental hygienists. When you go to the dentist, the first person you’ll interact with is usually the dental hygienist. Knowing what each person does can facilitate your comfort during your next dental appointment. Medical Arts Dentistry can help explain a little further what each professional does so that our patients feel more comfortable on their visit. 

What is a Dentist?

A dentist is a physician who specializes in dentistry. This includes the mouth, teeth, gums, and associated areas. The wellness of the mouth is crucial to the overall health of the body, a dentist will advocate and assist their patients in maintaining a healthy mouth through regular cleanings and check-ups.

What does a Dentist do?

While a dental hygienist may take note of an issue in your mouth and alert a dentist or periodontist of it, they will not be able to diagnose the problem. Dentists then develop a plan for prioritizing treatments and guiding patients toward achieving their oral health goals. Another significant distinction between dentists and hygienists is their specialization. While a dental hygienist may work in a periodontist’s office, they typically do not consider themselves a periodontal hygienist.

Some dentists pursue additional education after college that specifically focuses on a particular area of dentistry, this allows them to specialize and provide care for patients with specific issues. Periodontists specialize in treating gum disease and other concerns of the gum line. Other specialists in the field include endodontists, who deal with issues related to nerves. Orthodontists also correct misaligned teeth and crookedness. 

What is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a professional who specializes in oral health and is responsible for preventing and treating oral diseases. Dental hygienists primarily perform their duties on their own, with limited direct supervision from a licensed dentist. Dental hygienists are integral to dentist-led teams. Their efforts reduce the majority of the workload for the dentist, allowing the dentist to focus on more complex procedures. As a result, it’s common for dental hygienists to take on a lot of preventive dental procedures in an office, including teeth cleaning, examining patients for oral diseases, and other preventive care. Additionally, they instruct patients on how to enhance and maintain healthy oral hygiene.

What does a Dental Hygienist do?

One of the greatest discrepancies between a dentist and a dental hygienist is the purpose of their position. Only a limited amount of time is spent with your dentist if there is a problem. For example, you might need treatment for gum disease or have a cavity that needs to be repaired. Conversely, a hygienist’s primary responsibility is to assist you in avoiding significant issues. They typically serve as the individual responsible for cleaning your teeth during a scheduled appointment. Your hygienist will scrape away the tartar and plaque from your teeth and buff them. 

Hygienists also have the usual practice of: 

  • taking x-rays of your teeth and gums 

  • giving patients fluoride rinses

  • applying sealants to teeth to prevent cavities

  • Discussing overall health and proper care for your teeth at home 

  • Providing advice on how to brush or floss

  • what foods to eat or avoid to have a healthy mouth

Do you still have any questions about the difference between your dentist and your dental hygienist? We are here to help explain. For your convenience, we have two offices. To learn more please call Medical Arts Dentistry at (912) 921-0401 for our Georgetown location or (912) 355-0605 for our Savannah location today. 


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