Dental Hygienists Versus Dental Assistants: Know The Difference

The dental clinic at Tulsa Community College is a very extensive program to train dental hygienists. There's a big difference in hygienists and dental assistants like the ones mentioned by state investigators looking into Dr. Scott Harrington's practice.

You just can't walk in off the streets and become a dental hygienist. TCC's program takes two years to complete while dental assistants require far less training. Dr. Harrington used dental assistants in his practice are commonly used by oral surgeons. They prepare dental trays for used for surgery. Dental hygienists perform cleanings, x-rays and are involved in the patient's oral health.

"The dental assistants primary job is to be a second set of hands for the dentist,'" says Debbie Batson who is Director of Tulsa Community College's Dental Hygiene Program where they use universal precautions.

"That is where you treat every patient as if they're infected that way there's no doubt," says Batson.

Dental instruments are cleaned using an instrument washer to remove debris and well as another cleaning device called an autoclave. According to the State Board of Dentistry, Dr. Harrington's dental assistants ...."were routinely providing the IV sedation for procedures." We tried to reach Dr. Harrington on his cell phone but got a recording.

While he is not answering our questions. TCC Dental hygienist Mindi Stephenson says those providing patient care should be transparent.

"It shouldn't be a hushed situation it should be an open discussion with the person that you work for and your co- workers and everyone should be on the same page to make sure that your standard of the care is the highest it can be for your patients," says Stephenson.

There are 14 students in the dental hygiene program. They graduate in May.