Dental offices provide a variety of different career options including dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistant and clerical staff. Dentists are the professionals with a doctoral degree in the dental sciences and facilitate the care of patients. Dentists may own the dental practice or work as a partner in a multi-dentist dental practice.
Dental hygienists are the professionals responsible for working under the direction of the dentist. Hygienists have a 2-year degree in the dental arts. Their duties include dental cleanings, X-rays, answering patient questions, working with the dentist to facilitate a patient's care and assessing the oral health of patients.
Dental hygienists have opportunities available outside of a dental practice. Dental schools need qualified instructors to teach classes and hygienists may qualify for instructor positions. Some hygienists enjoy the sales end of dental health and use their knowledge and experience to facilitate the sales of dental products to dental practices all over the country.
Dental assistants are the people who assist the dentist or the hygienist. This position does not require a degree, but there are schools that offer certificates. Dental assistants may be able to take X-rays and provide patient education, and many are utilized as clerical staff in the dental office. State regulations determine how a dental practice can utilize a dental assistant.