What is a Dental Hygiene Assistant?

Dentists hire dental hygiene assistants to perform oral examinations, take X-rays, and clean patients’ teeth. An additional level of dental office assistant, a hygiene assistant, works to set up treatment rooms, develop X-ray films, and perform other office tasks as needed when the dentist or hygienist is busy. If you want to learn more about dental hygienist opportunities, this article will help you learn everything there is to know about this profession.

Dental hygienist opportunities offered by dentists 

Overview of Dental Hygiene Assistants

What Is a Dental Hygiene Assistant?

Dental hygienists are health professionals licensed in dental hygiene to offer educational, clinical, research, administrative, therapeutic, and other services that support total health by promoting oral health. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene programs in institutions of higher education.

What Are the Duties of Dental Hygienist Assistants?

To help the hygienist and dentist work more quickly, hygiene assistants perform tasks that prepare patients for hygiene treatments. Assistants review care plans with patients, set up treatment equipment, take impressions for whitening trays, take vital signs when required, and administer fluoride treatments, depending on the state standards for care in a dental office.

The duties of a dental hygienist assistant may also include ordering supplies and making sure the treatment room is fully stocked and sterile before each appointment, depending on the surgery. In addition to providing patient care, hygiene assistants may also take and develop X-rays, take phone calls, set up appointments, help with billing, and maintain records.

Education and Training

Training for hygiene assistants includes both classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Most community colleges offer dental assistant programs that run concurrently with or in addition to dental hygiene courses. Hygiene assistants finish their training in the dental office after earning an applied science degree in dental assisting.

Hygiene assistants can apply their knowledge by handling and caring for equipment daily, collaborating with the dentist and hygienist, and interacting with patients.

State Recognition

Most states do not mandate certification for hygiene assistants, but certification can result in increased responsibilities and pay. Thirty-seven states recognize the certification offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). The Dental Assisting National Board certification exam is only open to graduates of institutions approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Throughout the year, the National Board offers computerized exams that aspiring dental hygienists can take.

Average Assistant Dental Hygienist Pay

The typical hygiene assistant’s salary varies by state, educational attainment, and work experience. Career advancement for hygiene assistants comes from years of experience, increased job responsibilities, and ongoing education. A hygiene assistant’s pay depends on each of these factors. In 2022, hygiene assistants earned an average yearly wage of $41,180, or $19.80 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers prefer to hire hygiene assistants who have DANB certification and pay them about $2 more an hour than uncertified dental assistants, according to DANB.

Dental hygienist opportunities offered by dentists 

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