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Dental Hygienist Vs. X-ray Technician

The roles of dental hygienists and x-ray technicians are fairly different. Dental hygienists provide more direct patient care while x-ray technicians use technology to gather data doctors use to diagnose patients. Read on to compare these career further.

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Comparing Dental Hygienists to X-Ray Technicians

Dental hygienists and x-ray technicians both work in the healthcare field, have the responsibility of explaining procedures to patients and take x-rays as part of their work. Dental hygienists specifically focus on oral health care while x-ray technicians may take x-rays of various parts of a person's body. Both career fields are growing at comparable rates, but dental hygienists have a higher median salary than x-ray technicians.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Dental Hygienists Associate's degree $72,910 20%
X-ray Technicians Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree $57,450 (radiologic technologists) 12% (radiologic technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dental Hygienists vs. X-Ray Technicians

Dental hygienists and x-ray technicians both see patients and may be responsible for answering their questions or preparing them for procedures. Dental hygienists work with patients in a hands-on capacity and may clean their teeth, apply sealant, inspect their mouths and gums and teach patients about oral health care. X-ray technicians work exclusively with patients who have an internal issue that needs to be viewed by a doctor. Before taking these radiologic images that allow doctors to see internally, x-ray technicians ensure patients are positioned properly, and they may also explain the procedure and answer questions. Once everything is in place, x-ray technicians capture images that are then developed and given to medical doctors to help inform a diagnosis. Dental hygienists may also take x-rays as part of their duties, but it is not the exclusive focus of their work.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists must spend two years of postsecondary study learning about dental hygiene and earn an associate's degree to prepare for their career. A license is also required. Once employed, almost all dental hygienists work in dental offices. Their primary focus is providing oral health care to patients. The scope of their duties can vary from state to state. In some states dental hygienists are qualified to diagnose dental issues while other states require a patient's condition to be diagnosed by dentists.

Job responsibilities of a dental hygienist include:

  • Using power tools, lasers and other types of tools
  • Removing plaque and whitening teeth
  • Evaluating each patients' condition
  • Informing dentists of the results of their evaluations
  • Taking dental x-rays
  • Teaching patients how to care for their teeth

X-Ray Technicians

X-ray technicians are also known as radiologic technicians and radiographers. It is necessary to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in a related field of study to pursue this career; an associate's degree is most common. X-ray technicians operate x-ray equipment that is used to produce images of a person's internal body that can be used to diagnose medical conditions. Most x-ray technicians work in hospitals, while some work in medical clinics.

Job responsibilities of an x-ray technician include:

  • Interacting with patients
  • Looking after x-ray equipment
  • Restocking supplies
  • Taking images of patients
  • Processing images
  • Operating computer software used to secure and store images

Related Careers

Other medical careers that aspiring dental hygienists or x-ray technicians may be interested in include being a registered nurse or a nuclear medicine technologist. The links listed here connect to more information about these career options.

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