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DentistDENTIST:  A dentist is a doctorate-level medical professional who treats the teeth and gums of his or her patients, including preventative care and maintenance for oral health and treating acute problems such as filling cavities, performing root canals, and treating tooth decay. In addition to general dentists, there are more specialized types of dentists who focus on a certain type of care, such as gum care (periodontists) or child dentistry (pediatric dentistry).  

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DENTAL HYGIENIST: Dental hygienists provide preventative dental care and teach patients how to maintain good oral health.  They generally work under the supervision of a dentist. A hygienist may perform dental cleaning,  examine teeth and gums, perform some aspects of periodontal therapy, apply fluoride treatments or sealant, and take and develop x-rays. 

DENTAL ASSISTANT:  Dental assistants perform office and laboratory duties and provide different types of patient care. They do not perform the same tasks that dental hygienists are licensed to perform. On a typical day, a dental assistant who delivers patient care will make patients as comfortable as possible in the dental chair, prepare them for treatment, and obtain dental records; hand instruments and materials to dentists, and keep patients' mouths dry and clear by using suction or other devices; sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare tray setups for dental procedures, and instruct patients on postoperative and general oral health care;  sometimes prepare materials for making impressions and restorations, expose radiographs, and process dental x-ray film as directed by a dentist. 

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To practice as a dentist in the U.S., you must have a degree from an accredited dental school.  Dental school acceptance requires a bachelor’s degree and passage of the DAT (Dental Admissions Test).  To be accepted into a dental school program, you do not necessarily have to major in science in college, but it may help. Additionally, you must at least fulfill the dental school prerequisites, which include many science classes. 

To work as a dental hygienist, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school with either an associate degree (most common), a certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree.  After graduating from an accredited program, a dental hygienist must get a license from the state in which they want to practice.   

Dental assistants usually learn their skills on the job, although some receive training from dental-assisting programs offered by community and junior colleges, trade schools, and technical institutes.  High school students interested in a future career as dental assistants should take courses in biology, chemistry, health, and office practices. Dental assistants must be reliable, work well with others, and have good manual dexterity. In some states, dental assistants must be licensed or registered. They may be required to pass a written or practical exam.  Some dental assistants become office managers, dental-assisting instructors, or dental product sales representatives, but opportunities are limited for those without further education. Some dental assistants become dental hygienists after going back to school. 

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Doctoral/Professional Degree

US Earning Potential Averages For Dental Hygienists: (Jobs.Utah.Gov

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Associate's Degree