The Dental Hygiene curriculum provides content in general education, biomedical sciences, dental sciences, and clinical skills. Graduation from the program requires attainment of the following competencies:
Professional Integrity - graduates must apply the American Dental Hygienists' Association Code of Ethics and practice with personal and professional integrity in accordance with the state dental practice act. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- uphold ethical and legal behaviors with all patients, colleagues and other professionals; and
- exhibit cultural awareness and sensitivity to patients' goals, values, beliefs and preferences in health care choices while promoting optimal oral care and general health during patient treatment.
Assessment - graduates must apply medico-legal principles to the systematic collection, analysis and accurate recording of general, personal and oral health status of patients. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- recognize medical conditions that necessitate special considerations prior to or during treatment;
- identify the patient at risk for a medical emergency and be prepared to manage the event should it occur during treatment;
- perform an extra-oral and intra-oral examination of hard and soft tissues, distinguish abnormal from normal findings and accurately record the clinical observations;
- identify the need for dental radiographs, perform and process radiographs of diagnostic quality and interpret the films or digital images;
- evaluate oral tissues, health history and personal and cultural behaviors to identify risk factors that require intervention to prevent disease; and
- determine the need for referral to the appropriate health care provider.
Planning - graduates must establish a planned sequence of patient care based on the dental hygiene diagnosis by identifying oral conditions, potential problems, etiologic and risk factors and available treatment modalities. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- analyze and interpret assessment data to formulate a dental hygiene diagnosis;
- determine priorities and establish oral health goals with the patient and family/guardian as active participants;
- communicate the plan for dental hygiene services to the dentist and appropriate interdisciplinary health team members; and
- obtain the patient's informed consent based on a thorough case presentation.
Self-Care Instruction - graduates must provide planned educational services using appropriate interpersonal communication skills and educational strategies to achieve oral health goals. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- identify the health needs of patients and assist them in the development of individualized self-care regimens; and
- encourage patients to assume responsibility for their health and promote adherence to self-care regimens.
Implementation - graduates must provide treatment that includes preventive and therapeutic procedures to promote and maintain oral health. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- adhere to state and local policies and procedures for maintaining safety in the dental facility;
- provide an oral environment for patients which is conducive to health by applying principles of dental hygiene instrumentation without causing trauma to tissues;
- control pain and anxiety during treatment through the use of appropriate clinical techniques and behavioral management strategies; and
- select and administer appropriate chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment or prevention of dental diseases and provide pre-and post-treatment instructions.
Evaluation - graduates must evaluate the effectiveness of planned clinical and educational services and modify them as necessary. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- evaluate the clinical outcomes of dental hygiene treatment interventions using dental health indices, instruments and examination techniques and determine appropriate re-care schedules for patient; and
- determine a patient's satisfaction level with the dental hygiene care received and the oral health status achieved.
Community Involvement - graduates must be able to initiate and assume responsibility for health promotion and disease prevention for diverse populations. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- promote oral health and wellness strategies within the community;
- assess, plan, implement and evaluate community-based oral health programs; and
- provide community educational services and refer clients to appropriate resources in the health care system.
Information Management and Critical Thinking - graduates must acquire and synthesize information in a critical, scientific and effective manner. Specifically, the Dental Hygiene graduate must:
- evaluate the scientific literature and dental product or therapeutic claims and use information technology to assist in developing evidence-based decisions regarding patient care;
- be informed of current issues that impact the profession and clinical practice; and
- evaluate comprehensive patient care and management by the use of reflection and critical thinking skills.