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

When you need dental care, you may see either a hygienist or a dentist, depending on what your appointment is for. Although both provide assistance and advice on maintaining your dental hygiene, a dentist is qualified to carry out higher level procedures and surgery. Some dentists specialise in a particular area of oral health – such as replacing missing teeth, or working with children. 

What is the difference between a dental hygienist and a dentist?

Dental hygienist

The role of a dental hygienist is to help patients maintain oral health by providing tips and advice specific to their teeth. They can be considered educators, rather than fixers – offering forms of preventative care, such teeth cleaning, to reduce the chances of gum disease and other issues developing. An appointment with a dental hygienist may involve:

  • Discussing how patients care for their teeth, product recommendations and any changes they should make.
  • Advice about the effect of diet and lifestyle on dental hygiene.
  • Scaling treatments to removed plaque and tartar build up.
  • The removal of surface stains.
  • Checking for signs of tooth decay, gum disease or any other dental hygiene issues.
  • Taking x-rays to assist the dentist in diagnosis.

While dental hygienists are often seen separately, they also assist dentists in their patient appointments, as might the surgery's dental assistant.

Dental hygienists can assist dentists in their appointments.A dental hygienist may assist the dentist in their procedures.


A dentist receives more specialist training than a hygienist and is qualified to perform surgery and more complicated procedures. They provide a wide range of treatments related to dental care. Much of a dentist's work is about fixing a problem, in contrast to the preventative focus of the dental hygienist. That said, the dentist will inspect the patient's mouth for signs of gingivitis and other general hygiene concerns too.

Tasks carried out by a dentist include:

  • Procedures such as root canal, dental implants and dental bridges.
  • Administering sedatives and anaethestics where required.
  • Prescribing medications and treatments.
  • Repairing fractured or chipped teeth.
  • Applying sealants.
  • Providing tooth whitening treatments in the surgery or to take home.
  • Take impressions for replacement teeth and dental bridges.
  • Examination of x-rays and using them for diagnosis and treatment.
Working with children is one form of dental speciality.Dentists may choose to specialise – such as in working with children.

If you're not sure who you need to see about your dental hygiene, speak to our friendly team to find out how we can help. Give us a call on 04 978 4964 or, if you know who you need to see, book an appointment online.

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