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Dental Hygienist Vs. Radiology Technician

Dental hygienists and radiology technicians both work in the healthcare field to help detect disease and determine what further treatment may be indicated. Learn about the job responsibilities, salary, differences and other similarities between these two careers.

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Comparing Dental Hygienists to Radiology Technicians

Dental hygienists and radiology technicians both help others to live healthy lives and attempt to discover whether further treatment is indicated. A dental hygienist provides teeth cleanings and other basic preventative care for dental patients, which may include dental x-rays, while a radiology technician conducts x-ray and MRI tests exclusively on medical patients.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Dental Hygienist Associate's degree $72,910 20%
Radiology Technician Associate's degree $58,960 (radiologic and MRI technologists) 12% (radiologic and MRI technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dental Hygienists vs. Radiology Technicians

Dental hygienists and radiology technicians are responsible for assisting patients in procedures that may lead to appointments with higher-level providers. However, dental hygienists work with dental patients typically prior to their visit with a dentist, cleaning their teeth and conducting other preventative care and testing. Radiology technicians conduct x-ray and MRI tests on medical patients when there is a health concern that may need to be addressed by a doctor. A primary requirement of both positions is the ability to listen to their patients, provide treatment as requested, and keep patients comfortable throughout their testing and treatment.

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is an employee who works under the direction of a dentist. They perform standard teeth cleanings, x-rays, and other tests and report the findings to dentists. They also assist the dentist during more involved treatments, such as when cavities are being filled. Dental hygienists usually work a standard 40-hour work week, although they may work more or less, depending on the dental office's needs. An associate's degree in dental hygiene is the most common form of preparation for this career and normally takes three years. Licensing is required in all states.

Job responsibilities of a dental hygienist include:

  • Recording and reviewing patients' dental and medical histories as applicable to their dental health
  • Maintaining dental equipment, including sharpening and sterilizing
  • Examining gums to detect signs of gum disease
  • Conducting dental clinics for low-income communities

Radiology Technician

A radiology technician conducts x-ray, MRI, and other screening tests when there is suspicion of disease or other health condition. They receive their direction from a doctor or other medical professional regarding which part of the body to scan and which tests to conduct. They are responsible for positioning patients, running the equipment, and processing the test results. They often work a 40-hour work week, although they may work varying shifts depending on the clinic or hospital's needs. An associate's degree in the field is the most typical career path, and licensing is required in some states.

Job responsibilities of a radiology technician include:

  • Explaining procedures to patients and monitoring them for comfort and safety during scans
  • Taking patient medical histories prior to conducting scans
  • Maintaining scanning equipment
  • Reviewing images to ensure quality and to determine if additional scans are necessary

Related Careers

If you are thinking of becoming a dental hygienist, a career as a registered nurse who also helps patients improve their health and prepares them for appointments with higher-level medical professionals may also be of interest. A career as an echo cardiac sonographer may also be interesting to those looking to pursue a career as a radiology technician, as both careers entail working with medical equipment to complete scans on patients.

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