Is Dental Hygiene Harder Than Nursing? (Table, Tips, FAQs)

No, dental hygiene is not harder than nursing.

You can work as a dental hygienist if you have only an associate’s degree in dental hygiene.

However, to take up a high-profile job as a nurse, you must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree if you aspire to take up advanced nursing roles like an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Nevertheless, both professions are all about providing healthcare to people.

This article will compare the professions of dental hygiene and nursing.

What is Dental Hygiene?

Dental hygiene is a field that focuses on the provision of precautionary oral care to people to ensure that the mouth, gums, and teeth are free of all forms of infection.

This field deals with procedures that help to avert diseases.

This field encompasses the assessment of the teeth to search for and cleanse possible damages and educate people on the significance of maintaining good oral health.

Experts who specialize in dental hygiene are known as dental hygienists.

What is Nursing?

Nursing is a very technical field of practice that focuses on providing healthcare to patients.

It evaluates patients to ascertain the treatment that will boost or sustain their health.

Nursing also focuses on educating members of society about the health challenges threatening them, how medications should be taken, healthy eating plans, and how to apply first aid.

Individuals trained in the knowledge and expertise of nursing are popularly known as nurses.

These professionals also motivate patients, show them how to care for themselves, and provide support whenever needed.

Read more: Dental Hygiene vs. Nursing (Diff, Simi, FAQs)

Is Dental Hygiene Harder Than Nursing? A Comparative Analysis

CriteriaDental HygieneNursing
Duration of StudyTypically requires an associate degree, which can be completed in 2-3 years.Varies: Can be 2-4 years for an RN (Registered Nurse) depending on whether one pursues an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Scope of PracticePrimarily focused on oral health, cleaning teeth, and educating patients about oral hygiene.Broad scope, ranging from bedside care to medication administration, wound care, and patient education.
Clinical ExperienceHands-on experience is mostly in a dental setting, working on patients’ oral hygiene.Clinical rotations cover various departments in a hospital or medical setting, providing a diverse range of experiences.
Licensing ExamsDental hygienists must pass a board exam in their state to practice.Nurses must pass the NCLEX exam to become licensed in their state.
Work EnvironmentMostly dental clinics or offices.Diverse settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, and more.
Physical DemandsPrimarily stationary, but requires precision and attention to detail. Potential exposure to neck and back strain.Can be physically demanding due to long shifts, moving patients, and being on one’s feet for extended periods.
Emotional ChallengesLess emotionally draining compared to nursing, but can still be challenging when dealing with anxious or uncooperative patients.Often emotionally intense, especially in departments like the ER or ICU, dealing with life-and-death situations.
Continuing EducationMany states require dental hygienists to complete continuing education to renew their licenses.Continued education is often required and can lead to specialized roles, such as nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
Job Outlook & SalaryFrom 2022 to 2032, the number of jobs for dental hygienists is expected to grow by 7%, which is faster than the average for all jobs.
Over the next 10 years, there will be an average of 16,400 new jobs for dental hygienists each year. Many of these openings are likely to be caused by the need to replace workers who switch jobs or leave the workforce, like when they retire.
From 2022 to 2032, the number of licensed nurses is expected to grow by 6%, which is faster than the average for all jobs. Over the next 10 years, there will be an average of 193,100 new jobs for qualified nurses each year. Many of these openings are likely to be caused by the need to replace workers who switch jobs or leave the workforce, like when they retire.

How Do Dental Hygiene And Nursing Differ? (Detailed Explanation)

Dental hygiene and nursing are two professions that differ in many ways. Here are some of them:

1. Education

Dental hygienists must acquire an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to perform their duties.

While an associate’s degree in dental hygiene can be completed in two years, a bachelor’s degree program can be completed in four years.

The program consists of theoretical and practical coursework, and some topics of discussion include dental anatomy, oral pathology, community dental health, and oral health education.

However, to practice as a dental hygienist, individuals must acquire a license from their state.

To work as a Registered Nurse (RN), individuals must obtain either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

While an associate’s degree in nursing can be completed in two years, a bachelor’s degree in nursing program will take up to four years.

However, an associate degree in nursing is recommended for individuals seeking entry-level positions.

On the other hand, an undergraduate degree will enable one to take up high-level jobs in hospitals and other highly-rated medical work environments.

The coursework of nursing programs focuses on topics like chemistry, anatomy, microbiology, psychology, and nutrition, among many others.

Also, to work as a nurse, a person must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and get a license as a registered nurse.

2. Specialty

To specialize in a particular area of expertise, dental hygienists must undergo complex extra training to boost their knowledge tremendously.

An example of an area of expertise in dental hygiene is dental therapy. Dental therapists carry out several responsibilities, like suture removal, extractions of first teeth, and placement of crowns or fillings.

There are several other specialties in dental hygiene.

On the other hand, nurses can specialize in a certain area by getting a master’s degree or working in a certain hospital department, such as the emergency room, cardiology, geriatric nursing, family nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and many others.

3. Work setting

Dental hygienists can mostly be found at dental offices or clinics.

They rarely work at night or on weekends. Dental hygienists perform the same type of job every day.

On the contrary, nurses perform their responsibilities at hospitals and clinics.

These professionals work based on shifts, which also cover nights and weekends.

Unlike dental hygienists, nurses don’t perform the same job every day.

4. Daily duties

Dental hygienists do the same thing every day. They take about an hour to attend to the needs of a patient.

Nurses, on the contrary, carry out several tasks. Their duties differ based on the conditions of the patients.

Although nurses attend to the needs of just one patient during surgery, under normal work conditions, nurses take care of up to eight patients simultaneously.

5. Income

Dental hygienists make an annual income of about $80,000.

However, the annual income of dental hygienists varies based on their expertise, experience, employer, and lots more.

On the other hand, registered nurses earn about $80,000 a year in salaries.

Nevertheless, the salaries of registered nurses differ according to their experience level in the field, specialty, industry, and location.

Moreover, in addition to their salaries, nurses in several countries are entitled to incentives like tuition reimbursements, license reimbursements, and many more.

6. Emotional Support

A dental hygienist’s job doesn’t require a lot of emotional investment.

On the other hand, nursing is a profession that requires a lot of emotional investment.

Nurses must be able to tell family members how their loved ones are doing and encourage patients to finish their treatment.

Is Nursing Harder Than Dental Hygiene?

Nursing covers a broader scope and often involves more diverse and emotionally intense situations than dental hygiene’s specialized focus.

Both have unique challenges, but nursing typically exposes one to a wider range of medical scenarios.

Nursing encompasses medical knowledge, procedures, and patient care techniques.

Nurses might find themselves in various medical situations, from assisting in surgeries to providing bedside care for critically ill patients.

Dental hygiene, while incredibly important, has a more focused scope primarily centered around oral health.

Nurses often work in environments where they witness severe illnesses, trauma, and even the death of patients. This can be emotionally taxing.

While dental hygienists also require empathy, especially when dealing with patients with dental anxieties, they might not encounter the same level of emotional intensity as nurses do regularly.

Tips For Succeeding As A Dental Hygienist Or Nurse

Here are some things you can do to have a successful career in dental hygiene or nursing:

1. Stay in touch with the latest developments in the field

The healthcare industry is a field that is still evolving.

Every day, new ideas and technologies are introduced into the industry.

So, you must learn enough about the latest changes in your field as a dental hygienist or a nurse, as this can help you do your job more effectively.

You can keep tabs on the latest developments in the field by reading medical journals, magazines, and other healthcare academic materials.

2. Don’t close the door to learning

Even though you have reached a certain level in your career that you have always desired as a dental hygienist or nurse, there is always room for improvement.

So, no matter your area of specialty, do not close the door to education.

If you have a master’s degree already, plan towards acquiring a doctoral degree, and if you have a Ph.D. already, engage in additional training.

The best dental hygienists and nurses in the healthcare industry complete one form or program after another.

3. Look for a mentor

Sitting under the tutelage of a mentor from the very first day of your career can do you lots of good.

As a dental hygienist or nurse, if you have a mentor, you can get advice from someone who has been in your shoes about the best way to reach the top of your field.

4. Give your very best

No matter the task designated to you as a dental hygienist or nurse, ensure you give it your best.

If you are known for being careless or performing a poor job, you can lose your job where you are working or even lose clients if you are practicing on your own.

5. Be nice

There is a general assumption in several countries that most healthcare personnel are always rude.

While this is relatively true, always try to be one of those few health professionals who give someone a reason to be happy.

Keep a positive attitude on the job, and treat your patients respectfully.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Dental Hygiene and Nursing

What is the importance of dental hygiene?

If you take care of your teeth and gums from a young age, you’ll be less likely to lose them to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease in old age. Good nutrition and regular dental care are the most important factors in ensuring long-term health and happiness.

What are three good dental hygiene practices?

The health of one’s teeth and gums depends on diligent dental hygiene practices beginning in childhood and continuing into maturity. Avoiding cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems is possible with daily brushing and flossing, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and attending regular dental examinations. It could be good for their health in general.

What does nursing mean?

Care for individuals of all ages, families, groups, and communities, whether they are ill or healthy, and in various situations, is included in the nursing profession. Care for the sick, disabled, and dying is part of the nursing profession’s remit.

Which is better, nursing or doctor?

Medical professionals are in a strong position to perform surgical procedures. They do the actual work, while the nurses are just there to help with things like readings and equipment. In a similar vein, only doctors should give out medical advice to patients.


Dental hygiene is not harder than nursing.

Although both professions fall under the healthcare industry, they are separate jobs. This article has done a great job discussing the differences between the two jobs.

However, apply the tips listed above to succeed, no matter which one you desire to embark upon.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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ST Admin
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Hello, I am ST Admin! For five years, I began actively assisting students in Europe, the United States, and Canada in their pursuit of college advice and scholarship prospects. I am the Administrator of at present.

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