A dentist’s office, like the Santa Ana Smiles on Bristol Dentistry office, has a number of different professionals that work under their roof. While most people generally only think of the dentist as the care provider at a routine dental visit, most patients will actually have a number of different people work on their mouths besides the overseeing dentist.
For routine dental checkups, patients are often treated first by a dental hygienist. Hygienists take care of the initial cleanings of a dental checkup. They are specially trained to help teach patients how to create the best at-home dental routine for them. They watch for issues with periodontal (gum) conditions for their patients and let the overseeing dentist know of any issues. They will sometimes work more independently from a dentist such as in a senior care home. Not only do they guide patients in creating a dental routine, but they also instruct patients on how to brush, floss, and perform other at-home dental procedures correctly. Many are also trained in dental radiology so they can take dental x-rays of their patients.
Most dentists’ offices also have dental assistants. Dental assistants work more closely with dentists by helping with dental procedures. Unlike dental hygienists, dental assistants generally do not work directly with a patient’s mouth. Their tasks can include prepping a patient for surgery, sterilizing equipment, aiding in dental procedures by handing the dentist different tools, and constructing temporary crowns while the permanent ones are created in a dental lab. Some are also trained to develop x-rays and take oral impressions.
Dental technicians tend to help patients more remotely. They tend to work in dental labs and are in charge of creating dental prostheses. They make both removable and fixed pieces that can include crowns, veneers, dentures, bridges, implants, and orthodontic appliances and mouth guards. They will use impressions and photos to create molds and then construct the restorations to match the original teeth. Most people will never meet their dental technician(s) but the dental technician’s work is integral for many dental procedures.
Dentists are mostly in charge of diagnosing patients and taking care of the surgical portions of dental procedures. They double check a hygienist’s cleaning, handle prosthesis procedures (crowns, bridges, etc.), and perform root canals, extractions, and periodontal therapy. They are also in charge of prescribing medications such as antibiotics and painkillers.