Smiling dental assistant hands patient forms to fill out before appointment

Careers in oral health take training and dedication. And it helps if newcomers to the field enjoy both learning scientific principles and hands-on working conditions. If you are interested in becoming a dental assistant and wonder if this career choice may lead to becoming a dental hygienist, the answer is yes. With further healthcare training, it is possible to advance along this career path. Dental assistants can also specialize within the assistant role, or even move into office management or billing. Discover how the dental assistant school at The Praxis Institute can help you achieve your goals.

How Do the Roles of Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist Differ?

There are some major differences between these two work roles in the oral health field — dental assistant and dental hygienist. From our vantage point within the dental assistant program, which is taught at both campus locations of The Praxis Institute in Miami and Hialeah, Florida, dental assistants perform the following tasks:

  • Safely administer X-rays and other imaging technology
  • Provide sterilized examination rooms with disinfected tools and instruments
  • Assist dentists during oral health procedures, including crowns, fillings, and root canals
  • Perform educational sessions with patients about planned procedures and after-care instructions
  • Utilizing dental impression technology and other laboratory techniques
  • Help keep patient records up-to-date
  • Make appointments with patients

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists perform the following tasks:

  • Removal of plaque and tartar
  • Protecting teeth by applying fluorides and sealants
  • Safely administering and developing X-rays
  • Maintaining patient health records and treatment plans
  • Educating patients about oral hygiene
  • Utilizing a variety of tools to perform multiple tasks, including polishing, ultrasonic cleaning, and lasers

While some tasks intersect and overlap between the two job designations, they do vary considerably. Dental assistants work alongside dentists during procedures, as well as help with preparatory responsibilities and administrative tasks. Dental hygienists are usually one-on-one with the patient as they clean teeth. This added element of responsibility, along with their importance to the profitability of most dental offices, sets dental hygienist salaries higher than those of most dental assistants.

How to Move From Dental Assistant to a Hygienist Program

The field of oral health attracts professionals who want to help people achieve and maintain their overall health. The Praxis Institute offers an 11-month dental assistant program. Our diploma program provides an 80-hour externship, where students can gain experience working in dental offices. Graduates can also apply for the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) exam.

Dental hygienists can earn an associate degree after several years in an educational program. All states require that hygienists are licensed after successful completion of a training program. Hygiene programs often prefer to enroll students who have prior experience working in dental offices or an oral health setting. So, starting as a dental assistant may help students gain acceptance into a dental hygiene program. Their work experience can also clarify career preferences.

Enroll in the Dental Assistant School at The Praxis Institute

The Praxis Institute offers students in the Miami, Florida area competitive pricing with experienced instructors in several healthcare training programs. Financial aid is available to students who qualify. If you want to begin a career in healthcare, including the oral health field, discover the diploma and associate degree programs at The Praxis Institute. Enrollment times for our diploma programs are every week, and students can access flexible scheduling to pursue their goals.

Discover a challenging, fulfilling career path working with dental professionals and their patients. The dental assistant program is an excellent choice for gaining familiarity with the field, networking, and finding a well-paid, lifelong career. For more information, contact us.