Dental Hygiene Program

The Program

The dental hygiene entry-level program leads to a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene. This program includes two years of dental health courses completed at Pacific University, following completion of required prerequisite coursework.

The mission of the dental hygiene entry-level program is to prepare students to become dental hygienists who provide high quality, patient-centered care to diverse patient populations in a variety of healthcare settings. Graduates will have the foundation to pursue careers in education, public health, and management.

Your Career in Dental Health

Dental hygienists are licensed healthcare professionals who provide preventive, educational, and therapeutic dental health services to promote optimum oral health. They are specially educated to prevent and treat oral diseases to protect the teeth and gums in support of the patient's overall health.

Clinical dental hygienists provide direct patient care in a variety of healthcare settings which include private dental offices, managed care organizations, schools, public health clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Although scope of practice varies from state to state, most clinical dental hygienists perform oral health assessments; expose, process, and interpret dental radiographs (x-rays); remove plaque, calculus, and stain from the teeth; apply preventive materials including fluoride and sealants; teach patients proper oral hygiene techniques and counsel patients on maintaining optimal oral health. In some states, dental hygienists can administer anesthetic agents, place and carve restorative materials, and polish restorations.

Clinical dental hygienists use standard precautions (gloves, face masks, eye protection, etc.) when providing dental hygiene care to patients to reduce their risk of disease transmission. If a dental hygienist is accidentally exposed to a patient's body fluids, the dental hygienist and patient should both be tested for infectious diseases.

In addition to clinical practice, dental hygienists may also work in education, research, administration, management, program development, sales, marketing, and consulting.

Dental hygienists must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Most states require that a dental hygienist graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program and pass a written and clinical board examination. Many states also require an examination on legal aspects of dental hygiene practice.

Dental hygienists and dental assistants with a bachelor's or master's degree have additional career options which include teaching dental assisting, dental hygiene, and dental students in colleges and universities, administering public health and community-based programs, managing dental practices and healthcare facilities, and marketing dental supplies, products, and equipment.

Dental health students should have strong communication skills and enjoy working with people. They must have good hand/eye coordination, manual dexterity, and tactile sensitivity. They should do well in the basic sciences including chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology. Dental health students should have a clear vision of their future contribution to the oral health of the public.