Associate of Applied Science Degree
Dental Hygiene Program
A dental hygienist is a vital member of a team of dental professionals dedicated to improving oral health and supporting the general health of individuals and groups. As licensed professionals, dental hygienists provide educational, clinical, and therapeutic services and may be involved in research, administration, client/patient advocacy, marketing or consulting. Dental hygienists may practice in a variety of settings such as private dental offices, public health facilities, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. They may also work in correctional facilities, business and industry and other settings.
Dental hygienists in a clinical setting perform oral and general health assessments such as: medical history, vital signs, oral cancer screening, dental charting, examination of the gums and supporting structures of teeth. They provide oral health instruction, counseling regarding nutrition and healthy lifestyle and their impact on oral and general health. Dental hygienists take and interpret radiographs and provide many types of preventive services such as removing deposits from teeth, applying fluoride, placing sealants and more. Infection control and emergency management are also important functions. In New Mexico and other states, dental hygienists may be certified to provide local anesthesia.
Dental hygienists enjoy working with people, have good manual dexterity and enjoy working with their hands. They possess the maturity and critical thinking skills to provide current, quality, professional care. They have strong interpersonal skills to motivate and educate patients of all ages. Dental hygienists are lifelong learners and are dedicated to continuing education, enhancing the profession and practicing ethical decision-making and behavior. Dental hygienists are generally well paid and are highly thought of as professionals in their communities. The profession is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country and according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm) it is expected to grow by 33% through 2022.
The number of people seeking preventive dental hygiene care, the expansion of an older population who retain their teeth, and a trend in group practices that stress effective and productive use of office personnel, will provide increasing opportunities for employment. Graduation from this program qualifies students to take national and state examinations to become a licensed dental hygienist anywhere in the United States and there are international employment opportunities for dental hygienists educated in the U.S. Students wishing to pursue a Bachelor’s degree should consult with an advisor regarding transferability of courses in the prerequisite list as well as the dental hygiene curriculum.
Required Skills and Abilities
Students will need to demonstrate good oral expression (speech clarity) and written comprehension in English, critical thinking skills, near vision, and physical stamina (e.g., the ability to sit for long periods of time), as well as the ability to manipulate dental/medical equipment, move/lift patients and equipment up to 50 pounds without assistance, and perform patient care procedures with manual dexterity.
Program Admission Special Requirements
This is a limited entry program. Criteria for selection are available from the program director. Successful candidates generally have a GPA of 3.0 of higher. Student faculty ratio in the clinical setting is 1-to-5 thus allowing for individualized instruction.