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Dental Hygienist Vs. Sonographer

Dental hygienists provide direct care for patients and their teeth, while sonographers perform scans and capture images of various body areas that can be used to diagnose patients. This article highlights the differences and similarities between these career fields.

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Comparing Dental Hygienists to Sonographers

Dental hygienists are responsible for providing some oral health care to their patients, and they may also be involved with diagnosing gum disease or other oral health problems. Sonographers use special equipment to produce images of the abdomen, breast, heart or other body areas that doctors use to diagnose patients. While sonographers focus on providing diagnostic information, dental hygienists play a role in diagnosing and treating patients.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Dental Hygienists Associate's degree $72,910 20%
Sonographers Certificate or associate's degree $69,650 23%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dental Hygienists vs. Sonographers

Dental hygienists and sonographers both work with patients, and they can both play a role in helping determine if a patient has a health issue. Dental hygienists may take x-rays, for example, and are trained to observe potential indicators of diseases or other issues that may be affecting their patients' oral health. Sonographers produce images of what's happening inside a patient's body so that a doctor can accurately diagnose her or him. Dental hygienists may report their findings to a dentist, while sonographers must provide reports and images to a doctor.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists must study dental hygiene and earn an associate's degree in order to pursue this career. They also need to be licensed. The range of their duties can be different depending on which state they work in. Those who work in some states may need to report any concerns to a dentist, while in other states dental hygienists may be authorized to diagnose some conditions. All dental hygienists provide direct oral health care to their patients and play a key role in detecting potential oral health care problems.

Job responsibilities of a dental hygienist include:

  • Operating tools used to clean a patient's teeth, like polishing devices
  • Educating patients about maintaining their gums and improving their oral health care
  • Advising patients on toothbrush and toothpaste selection
  • Updating patient charts about their treatment and findings
  • Providing preventative dental health care, like fluoride treatments

Sonographers

Sonographers are also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, and they are required to have a certificate or associate's degree in their field. Certification is also a common job requirement for sonographers. They typically work in hospitals, although some sonographers work in doctors' offices or medical labs. Their hours may vary depending on their place of employment. They operate special medical equipment that's used to produce scans of a patient's organs and may specialize in areas like vascular sonography and OB/GYN sonography, among many others.

Job responsibilities of a sonographer include:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Preparing patients for procedures
  • Assessing the image being produced during an ultrasound for clarity
  • Adjusting ultrasound equipment
  • Monitoring patients during the tests

Related Careers

Since dental hygienists are involved with teaching patients about health care, they may also be interested in considering a career as a holistic health educator. Meanwhile, sonographers may also be interested in the work that cardiovascular technicians do, since both are diagnostic imaging professionals. Follow the links here to learn more about these other career options.

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