Should I Become A Dental Hygienist or Nurse?

Should I Become A Dental Hygienist or Nurse

If you have a desire to assist people in the improvement of their physical health, while also treating and improving their lives, then becoming a dental hygienist or a registered nurse may have crossed your mind.

While both of these jobs deal with the health of their patients, they vary quite drastically in the responsibilities surrounding them and the set of skills that are needed. 

Dental Hygienists are highly specialized in the area of oral health, while Nurses require a wider range of skills that cover a broad area. Both are excellent career choices, and it is all up to preference when choosing one or the other.

You can keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about both of these career choices.

A Career in Healthcare

What are Dental Hygienist’s Duties?

In a dental hygienist’s line of work, you will be working within a dental office, helping patients with their oral hygiene.

You will be thoroughly checking each patient for signs of gingivitis and how to prevent it, along with various other issues that can spring up regarding their oral health. 

Cleaning a patient’s teeth is also the responsibility of the dental hygienist, and you will most likely be doing this most of the time.

Offering a complete range of preventative care for the patient’s teeth is one of the biggest jobs of a dental hygienist, as you will be performing duties that will assist in keeping a patient’s teeth and mouth healthy and safe from diseases and ailments.

Communication skills are also required as you will be expected to communicate effectively what exactly is going on with the patient’s oral health, as well as guide them on how they should go about keeping their mouth healthy.

Keep in mind that dental hygienists also must be knowledgeable in operating and utilizing x-ray equipment, as for most patients you will be taking photographs and x-rays of their mouth and teeth.

As a dental hygienist, you will be the one responsible for initially handling the patient and performing the screenings, and checking their teeth. 

After this, you will be responsible for performing the initial cleaning of the teeth such as removing the plaque that has built up and then advising the patient on how they can prevent health issues and take care of their oral health.

When interacting with the dentist you will assist them in deciding what treatments will be needed for teeth diseases as well as those of the gums, and you will play a large role in handling various dental emergencies.

What Are the Duties of a Nurse?

Nurses also work in the field of healthcare, albeit in a different specialization than dental hygienists. Nurses will be dealing more directly with patients who have various conditions that are not limited to simple oral health.

As a nurse, your work will be dealing heavily with patients and their families whilst they are present in the hospital or clinic. Not only will you need to treat the patient, but you will be responsible for consoling their families while they are in hospital.

Communication skills and an empathetic attitude are vital when pursuing a career in nursing, as you will need to be sensitive towards the families of patients who may be going through a tough time.

Maintaining the healthcare reports of a patient and ensuring their accuracy are the responsibilities of a nurse. It is vital that you maintain these as the doctor will use them when treating the patient later on.

In addition, you will need to pay close attention to the current situation and how the patient is reacting to treatment and if there are any changes in the patient’s demeanor or behavior you will be expected to take note of it and react accordingly.

Administering to the patient their medications and drugs while also monitoring for any changes or reactions that may be caused by these medications are your responsibility as well.

Should there be any side effects or reactions then you will need to know how to react accordingly and assist the patient.

As a nurse, you will also be tasked with the prescription of certain medical devices that the patient may require, while taking down their vital signs and other relevant information that will be useful later on down the line by a doctor or specialist.

This is perhaps the biggest responsibility of a nurse. This job is not to be taken lightly as your actions will most likely directly affect the well-being of the patient and whether or not they will be able to fully recover from their ailment.

When interacting directly with the patient, you will need to administer medications that are non-intravenous, meaning that they do not go into a vein.

And finally, you will need to adjust the treatments of the patient accordingly and fix their healthcare plans according to how they react to certain treatments. Taking note of their responses and their health conditions is very important.

What are the Pros of Becoming a Dental Hygienist?

Among the pros of pursuing a career as a dental hygienist is a fact that you most commonly will not be required to work during the nights or weekends, and on holidays you will almost always have a vacation.

This is great if you would like a job that is not very stressful but is still able to provide for you and your family.

In addition to this non-stressful work situation, things are a fair bit more relaxed as compared to being a nurse due to the fact that dental hygienists only ever need to worry about one patient at a time.

Whichever patient you are attending to at that moment is the only patient that you will need to think about and take care of. This is perfect if you do not do well in high-stress situations which nurses almost always have to deal with.

Lastly, you do not need to build up an emotional investment with your patients as they will most likely only be having their teeth cleaned, and no serious health issues will be present. This will help those who do not do well in emotionally straining environments.

What are the Cons of Becoming a Dental Hygienist?

With the relatively relaxed work environment that comes with being a dental hygienist, a certain level of monotony is quite prevalent.

If you enjoy environments and situations that are constantly changing, and there is always something new going on around you, then becoming a dental hygienist will most likely not suit your desires.

The job of a dental hygienist revolves heavily around repetition and doing the same thing day in and day out. This is a perfect job for people who enjoy a steady, predictable work environment in which not very many surprises pop up day to day.

So, in the end, this is both a pro and a con, depending on how you look at things.

What are the Pros of Becoming a Nurse?

When becoming a nurse, you will have ample opportunities to become specialized in a variety of different areas. This is wonderful as you will be able to pick and choose where you would like to apply your skills.

If you would like to work with children, then working in a pediatric ward is the place for you, whereas if you enjoy more mature patients, then the intensive care unit or surgical nursing unit is where you may find a good fit.

Also, when working as a nurse you will get quite an exciting work environment. Unlike a dental hygienist, every single day of work is a new adventure. You will never find a day that is the same as the last.

This is good for those who enjoy a bit of excitement and adventure in their workplace, as this may help to make work less mundane and add a bit of spice to their life.

Also, the experiences you gain from working in different situations all the time will help to build your character as a person and lend themselves to benefit you later on down the line should you pursue other career choices or further your education.

What are the Cons of Becoming a Nurse?

Of course, with this added excitement comes the downside of needing to deal with a variety of patients. The sad fact is that not all patients will recover fully, or even at all, and you will need to deal with this emotional toll involved.

If you are weak emotionally or unable to handle stressful situations then nursing is most likely not the path for you. You must be strong mentally, physically, and emotionally when entering into a career in nursing.

This is very apparent in the hours required by most workplaces. Nurses will be working very long hours most of the time and working during the weekends and holidays. This is because nurses are always in need, and afflictions do not stop just because there is a holiday or weekend.

The schedules of nurses are also almost always changing, so if you need to plan things ahead of time you may not be able to in this profession.


At the end of the day, both professions are wonderful choices and will benefit people in one way or another.

It all comes down to your preference and what you are looking to get out of your job. Each job is unique, and their importance is not to be looked down on.

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is a writer for HKS Siblab, an education and business blog. He has a MSc in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics from the University of Hertfordshire and has been working in the cyber security industry since 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar and spending time with his family.

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