In this article, you will read about Which Career Is Best for You: Nursing or Dental Hygiene?. Dental hygienists and registered nurses (RNs) both play crucial roles in the healthcare sector, but there is no superior profession. So, if you’re torn between these two career options, it’s important to be aware that they also have some things in common, such as working with patients, providing routine checkups, and preventing illnesses. But whichever one you choose, you will reap a big benefit.

Two well-paid and in-demand vocations are dental hygiene and nursing. Although they have different duties, responsibilities, and work tasks, nurses and dental hygienists also have many characteristics. To better and prevent health concerns, both sorts of professionals collaborate closely with patients. Both have the opportunity to provide routine checkups, visit repeat patients, and regularly improve the lives of others. Additionally, with an associate’s degree you can work as a dental hygienist or registered nurse (RN). This results in a rewarding and helpful job in three years or less.

Whatever professional route you favor, it will be highly rewarding. To assist you in deciding which profession is ideal for you, we have outlined below the differences between dental hygienists and registered nurses.

Dental Hygienist vs. Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities

Dental hygienists help people with the most basic dental care. They do this under the direction of a qualified dentist. They examine patients’ mouths and look for indications of oral conditions, including gingivitis. To guarantee that customers leave with a clean, healthy smile, dental hygienists also offer cleanings and preventive treatments. The following tasks are carried out by dental hygienists on a daily basis:

  • cleaning teeth to get rid of any plaque, tartar, and stains
  • putting sealants and fluoride on patients’ teeth to protect them
  • checking the teeth for cavities and the gums for illness
  • producing and taking dental x-rays
  • notifying the dentist of any results
  • examining dental documents and patient records
  • teaching patients about good dental hygiene, such as using floss, brushing, and eating well

In order to offer patients high-quality treatment, registered nurses collaborate with doctors and other qualified healthcare professionals. Registered nurses, or RNs, are trained to diagnose and treat a wider range of health problems than dental hygienists. To make sure that all of a patient’s medical needs are met during their time in a hospital or clinic, nurses do thorough evaluations and set up treatment plans. An illustration of a registered nurse’s responsibilities is:

  • Performing exams and evaluating patients’ symptoms
  • delivering treatments and drugs
  • operating medical technology and equipment
  • executing diagnostic procedures and interpreting outcomes
  • observing, keeping track of, and documenting patients’ medical conditions
  • helping doctors during examinations and operations
  • interacting and working together with medical professionals
  • directing additional nursing personnel, such as LPNs and CNAs
  • putting together, evaluating, and organizing treatment programs
  • instructing individuals on how to treat illnesses or injuries

Dental Hygienist vs. RN Career Flexibility

The majority of dental hygienists work in private dental offices, where they have a set daily schedule. In general, dental offices are open Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Although it is uncommon, dental hygienists occasionally work on weekends and in the evenings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists often work part-time, although full-time positions are also available. This offers a lot of freedom for people who have other responsibilities at home.

Nurses work in a wide range of places, such as hospitals, executive offices, outpatient clinics, government agencies, schools, and long-term care facilities. Naturally, their timetable can change based on their place of employment. All, though, offer flexible choices. Let’s think about a few instances.


There is a more consistent, daily scheduling cadence for nurses who work in educational institutions or private medical practices, typically with weekends off. Work schedules might vary widely in hospitals, where the majority of nurses nowadays are employed. For example, a lot of emergency room nurses work three 12-hour shifts, giving them four days off. Depending on their preferences and the requirements of the facility, their shifts may be either daytime or nocturnal. Some departments may also provide nurses more consistent daytime schedules that coincide with standard business hours. You are probably able to discover a timetable that meets your demands as a nurse, no matter what they are.

In the end, both job paths offer freedom, so the choice really depends on your requirements. You wish to spend your afternoons and nights at home and your early mornings at work? Do you require a part-time schedule to accommodate other obligations? Do you want a few days off in a row? You should think about all of these issues when comparing dental hygienists and nurses.

RN vs. Dental Hygienist: Similarities and Differences

While the major duty of both of these jobs is to assist patients with their health, they differ in other respects, including schooling requirements, working hours, and even pay.


Dental hygienists typically have more flexible hours than registered nurses, who work long shifts and have busy schedules. However, RNs can plan a more regular schedule based on where they work.

For instance, while schedules differ in hospitals, nurses who work in private medical offices typically have the weekends off. Because they work three 12-hour shifts per day, three of which might be overnight or whenever the facility needs them, RN nurses who work in emergency care may find their schedule to be more taxing.

On the other hand, although full-time positions are also available, dental hygienists typically work part-time. They like daily, Monday–Friday schedules in their own dentistry practices and less demanding job schedules. They can work on the weekends and in the nights, but this is rare and depends entirely on the individual.

Dental Hygienist vs. Nurse Salary and Growth Potential

Dental hygienists and registered nurses both make good money. Registered nurses get an average yearly pay of $75,330, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, the median yearly compensation for dental hygienists in the US is $77,090.

The place you work may have a bearing on your salary. For instance, the average registered nurse in Connecticut makes $84,850 per year. In Connecticut, full-time dental hygienists make an average yearly salary of $85,610.

Despite the fact that registered nurses often have greater possibilities for advancement than dental hygienists do, the former may make a little bit more money overall. RNs with salaries in the top percentile make more than $116,230 yearly. In the United States, dental hygienists in the top percentile make at least $104,420 annually.

There are several prospects for advancement in nursing. With the right training and experience, a registered nurse can become a leader or specialize in a certain area of nursing, like pediatrics or cancer care. Even though most nurses have an associate degree, registered nurses (RNs) can move up in their careers by completing an online, fast-paced RN-to-BSN program. There are other educational and training opportunities for dental hygienists. Outside of dentistry (which requires a PhD), health education, and managing medical and health services, there may not be many ways to move up in the field after dental hygiene.

However, during the coming years, both professions can anticipate rapid development. Between 2019 and 2029, the number of registered nurses employed is anticipated to increase by 7%, creating over 221,000 additional positions for newly certified nurses. Similar rise of 6% is anticipated for dental hygienists during the upcoming few years. However, because to the decreased size of the industry, new dental hygienists will have access to around 13,300 job positions during this time.


While dental hygienists are only allowed to practice dentistry, nurses have more chances for promotion. However, both professions are anticipated to expand in the future.

The BLS predicts that there will be around 276,700 new jobs for RNs between 2020 and 2030, a 9% increase in employment. Also, about 23,100 new jobs for dental hygienists are expected to open up during this time, which is an increase of 11% in the number of jobs.

Dental Hygiene vs. Nursing School Requirements

As you can see, careers in dental hygiene and nursing are both successful and satisfying. Both job paths can give your professional life direction, security, and meaning. The subject of how to become a nurse or dental hygienist still stands. What variations exist in the training requirements?

You need to have at least an associate’s degree in dental hygiene to work as a dental hygienist. If you want to be eligible for prospective careers in management, research, or education, as well as positions with greater income, dental hygiene bachelor’s and master’s programs are also offered. Associate degree programs are typically completed in two to three years and include both clinical and academic components. Verify if the American Dental Association has accredited the dental hygiene school or program (ADA). This is necessary to pass your board exam and receive your state’s dental hygienist license.

Today, all states need dental hygienists to hold a license before they can start working, though the standards differ based on where you live. In Connecticut, aspiring hygienists are required to pass both one of the clinical performance exams listed by Connecticut in addition to the National Board Examination from the ADA (see here).

Additionally, registered nurses must hold a valid state license. A state-approved nursing program, such as the associate degree in nursing program at Goodwin University, must be completed before one can become a licensed registered nurse (RN). Similar to dental hygiene school, nursing school typically requires two to three years to finish. However, some nurses opt to pursue their bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), which can be finished in up to four years.

A nurse will be prepared to pursue their license once they have earned an authorized nursing degree. After passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing, licenses are issued (NCLEX-RN). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers this exam, which shows one’s understanding of patient care, analytical and problem-solving skills, and important healthcare standards.

Which Career Is Best for You: Nursing or Dental Hygiene?

A significant and intensely personal decision is whether to pursue a profession in dental hygiene or nursing. You may anticipate a high level of job satisfaction regardless of the career route you choose. Both nurses and dental hygienists have the extraordinary opportunity to improve the lives of their patients and ongoing possibilities to form bonds with those under their care. You are already headed in the right direction if you enjoy working with people and want to pursue a fulfilling career in healthcare.


Abdullahi Suleiman a Certified Registered Nurse based in Nigeria, an Entrepreneur and Also a Blogger, passionate about Community Development and Cosmetic Nursing

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