Dentist Vs. CRNA

Although dentists and CRNAs both work in healthcare and share some tasks in common their focus is distinctly different. This article explores the training requirements for both careers and typical duties of both dentists and CRNAs.

Comparing Dentists to CRNAs

Dentists and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are healthcare professionals with different levels of training and some different responsibilities. Although dentists must complete more postsecondary training, CRNAs earn slightly higher salaries.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Dentists Doctoral degree, license $159,770 19%
CRNAs Master's degree, license, certification $160,270 16%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dentists vs. CRNAs

Dentists and CNRAs both spend time interacting with patients and assessing them. While CRNAs give patients anesthesia for a range of medical procedures or before and during surgery, dentists are responsible for giving anesthesia to patients before dental procedures. CRNAs also focus on helping patients manage their pain after procedures. Dentists may give patients a prescription if they have had treatment that may cause pain. Dentists are also responsible for teaching people how to take care of their teeth and gums, which isn't something that CRNAs do. Dentist also perform other procedures that CRNAs do not perform, such as making molds of people's mouths so that things like dentures can be constructed for them.


Dentists look after medical issues affecting a person's teeth and mouth. Most dentists work in dental offices. Although they may primarily work during the day some dentists work evening and weekend hours to accommodate patients. Those interested in advancing in their career can choose to complete a residency program in one of the nine dental specialties. They may also opt to complete the training required to become a forensic odontologist and work on criminal investigations. Dentists need good communication and interpersonal skills because they work closely with their patients.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Cleaning patients' teeth
  • Overseeing dental technicians and other staff
  • Writing prescriptions
  • Referring patients to specialists
  • Extracting teeth
  • Treating cavities


CRNAs are one of a group of nurses that are known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) and their primary responsibility is to give patients anesthesia. With experience a CRNA may opt to move into a healthcare management role. Those who earn a doctoral degree can also explore opportunities in research. It's crucial that they pay attention to details because they must ensure patients receive the proper dose of anesthesia.

Job responsibilities of a CRNA include:

  • Checking a patient's medical history
  • Communicating with doctors and anesthesiologists
  • Monitoring patients during surgery
  • Assessing patients after medical procedures
  • Giving patients medication when they're in pain

Related Careers

Those who are interested in dentistry may also want to explore the work periodontists do, since they are dental specialists who focus on treating specific dental issues. Another career option for those considering a future as a CRNA is to become an anesthesiologist assistant because they also monitor patients during procedures and ensure their pain is managed.

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