At Huntingdon Valley Dental Arts and most other dental practices, there are dentists and dental hygienists on staff. Usually, a patient sees a dentist and a dental hygienist when they come in for an appointment. Even though both types of dental professionals are concerned with your oral health, they serve two distinct functions, which is why they work together.
Most patients see a dental hygienist before the dentist enters the room. You may already know that a dental hygienist does a deeper teeth cleaning than you can do at home. However, they do much more than that. Dental hygienists check the health of patients’ gums, their soft tissues in general, and for any potentially problematic teeth. They also take x-rays and go over proper oral hygiene instructions. If a dental hygienist sees anything that the dentist should take a closer look at, (s)he will let the dentist know. Dental hygienists have experience working with teeth and are extremely knowledgeable, but a dentist must make a formal diagnosis.
Once the dental hygienist is finished, you’ll typically see a dentist. A dentist can officially diagnose teeth problems. Dentists also examine x-rays, fill cavities, prescribe medicine, perform root canals, and more. It’s very common for a patient to spend more time with a dental hygienist than their dentist during a visit.
For those wondering about the other differences between these two dental professions, dental hygienists and dentists have different schooling requirements. While it is possible to get a master’s degree in dental hygiene, most dental hygienists complete two years at a community college and then take the state license exam.
To become a dentist, one must get either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry Degree). When looking for a dentist, it doesn’t matter which degree (s)he has because the two degrees require the exact same training, which includes a bachelor’s degree and then four additional years of schooling. Once that is completed the future dentists must take a licensure test in the state they intend to practice in.
If you have any questions about what our staff members do at Huntingdon Valley Dental Arts, feel free to ask! Dr. Miller, Dr. Makrauer, and the rest of our wonderful staff will be happy to educate you.