Dentist VS Dental Hygienist: What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and a Dental Hygienist?

What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and a Dental Hygienist?

At Lamas Dental Specialists, we believe that understanding the different roles of each dental professional helps our patients feel much more comfortable during their appointments. Two of the dental professionals that patients most frequently see are the dental hygienist and the dentist.

A dentist and a dental hygienist both provide essential services to help individuals maintain a healthy mouth, but each professional performs a different role in that process. Both must have experience using a variety of tools: A dentist uses brushes, lasers, drills and scalpels while a dental hygienist uses ultrasonic tools, polishers and lasers. The dental hygienist works under the direction of the dentist.

The Role of the Dental Hygienist

The role of the dental hygienist is to keep the gums healthy to prevent the onset of chronic infection or inflammation.

A dental hygienist undergoes specialized training to learn how to properly remove the plaque and tartar buildup off of the teeth as well as from below the gum line. In addition, the hygienist removes stains from the teeth and polishes them once the cleaning is complete. If the dental hygienist notices any potential problems, he or she will mention these concerns to the dentist; however, it is the dentist’s responsibility to diagnose and then create a treatment plan to solve any problems that the hygienist notices.

Other services hygienists provide include fluoride rinses and sealants: Sealants are thin coatings of plastic that are painted onto the premolars and molars. By painting this sealant on these chewing surfaces, the likelihood of decay decreases.

On many occasions, the dental hygienist will take X-rays of the patient’s teeth and gums, and then develop them for Dr. Lamas’ review. In addition, a hygienist offers the patient tips on brushing and flossing as well as on which foods can contribute to a healthy mouth. Once the dental cleaning is complete and the X-rays are ready, it is time for Dr. William P. Lamas to perform the exam.

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Unless a dental hygienist plans to teach, perform research or clinically practice in a school or a public health program, a hygienist is not required to earn as high of a degree as a dentist. The two-year programs (associate’s degree) are perfect for those who want to work in a dental office and four-year or six-year programs (bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, respectively) are ideal for those who are interested in a more specialized degree in dental hygiene.

State Licensure

Despite the type of dental hygienist degree being sought, the program the individual chooses must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation; otherwise, upon graduation, he or she may not qualify to take the state’s Dental Hygienist Licensure Exam. Once the graduate passes the state exam, he or she has earned the license necessary to practice in that particular state. After a hygienist has received state licensure, the initials ‘RDH’ will follow his or her name. The ‘RDH’ stands for Registered Dental Hygienist.

A Biannual Cleaning and Exam at Lamas Dental Specialists in Miami

Upon arriving at Lamas Dental Specialists for a biannual cleaning and exam, prior to seeing Dr. Lamas, patients receive treatment from one of our friendly dental hygienists.

The Role of the Dentist

On average, individuals only spend time with their dentist if they are experiencing some kind of a dental problem that needs to be corrected. Dentists diagnose and then treat problems related to an individual’s gums, teeth or some other part of the mouth. Furthermore, dentists prescribe medication, repair damaged and/or decayed teeth, interpret dental X-rays, apply topical analgesics, inject anesthetics and, in some instances, provide sedation. Dentists also perform a variety of procedures, including root canals, dental crown placement and fillings.

Just Like Physicians, Dentists Can Choose to Specialize

There are general dentists and dentists who choose to continue their education so they can specialize in a particular area. Besides his degree in General Dentistry, Dr. William P. Lamas also has a degree in Periodontology and Dental Implants; therefore, he is a General Dentist, Periodontist and Dental Implant Specialist. Periodontists focus on treating gum disease as well as other issues related to the gums and a dental implant specialist replaces missing teeth using permanent dental prostheses.

Becoming a Dentist: Educational Requirements

An aspiring dentist usually has a bachelor’s degree (four-year degree) before attending dental school to attain the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. If an individual wants to specialize in a certain area of dentistry, after attaining a dental degree, he or she can begin the specialist education program of choice. This part of training is typically completed in the form of a residency program that lasts from two to four years.

State Licensure

Once the aspiring dentist has successfully completed dental school, he or she can take the state licensure exam and begin practicing general dentistry; however, an individual who chooses to specialize must earn a state license in that particular specialty following graduation from that program as well.

Common Issues Treated at Lamas Dental Specialists in Miami

Some of the common issues that Dr. Lamas addresses include gum disease, tooth loss and tooth pain due to an abscess. He also performs a variety of cosmetic dentistry procedures, some of which include teeth whitening, dental implant surgery, periodontal plastic surgery, dental crown placement, permanent bridge placement, implant-secured dentures, laser gum depigmentation and dental crown lengthening.

The Importance of Biannual Cleanings and Exams

Regularly scheduled dental visits are essential to ensuring the gums stay healthy and the teeth remain strong. Remembering to schedule biannual cleanings can help keep you one step ahead of the bacteria responsible for causing gingivitis (gum disease). Furthermore, studies indicate that the same bacteria that causes gum disease can enter into the bloodstream and increase an individual’s risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.

If you are interested in learning about becoming a dentist, dental specialist and/or dental hygienist, Dr. William P. Lamas and his team of dental professionals are happy to answer any questions you have about the dental industry: Contact Lamas Dental Specialists today at 305.440.4114 to schedule your dental cleaning and exam. Dr. Lamas and his team of professionals are dedicated to helping each of their patients avoid gum disease and maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.