Hygienist vs Therapist: What’s the difference?

When I introduce myself as a dental therapist I am often greeted with a slightly vague look so I often revert to using the title dental hygienist as it is a term people are more familiar with. I thought I would kick things of by explaining briefly the role of both a hygienist and a therapist.

A dental hygienist is a registered dental professional who helps both children and adults maintain their oral health by preventing and treating gum (periodontal) disease and promoting good oral health care. You will often hear the term ‘scale and polish’, but this is very much an over simplified description of what a hygienist does.

To provide more details and without getting too technical, a hygienists role primarily includes (but is not limited to), educating patients on the best oral hygiene practices, assessment and monitoring of gum health, oral cancer screening, routine and deep scaling, fluoride application and fissure sealants, dental impressions, teeth whitening

The role of a dental therapist is less commonly understood but encompasses everything  of a hygienist whilst also being able to perform additional procedures such as child and adult fillings and extractions of primary (baby) teeth.

This is a very brief overview of each role. A more detailed list of the full scope of practice can be found at the following link:

General Dental Council – Scope of Practice (September 2013)


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