Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene

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Earn your associate degree in dental hygiene to begin working toward future opportunities in the dental field today.


Our Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene is designed to prepare you for working as a dental hygiene healthcare provider with a strong foundation of skills in dental science and clinical knowledge. You’ll work to learn about assessing patients, planning treatments, and providing preventative and therapeutic dental hygiene care for children, adolescents, adults, geriatric patients, and those with special needs. Then, you’ll practice your skills in laboratory simulations and in clinical settings under the supervision and guidance of experienced professionals — including in our full-service Dental Clinic on campus. You’ll also have the chance to get involved in designing and implementing community outreach programs focused on disease prevention and health promotion. As a graduate, you’ll have worked to be ready to become a dental hygienist and valued member of a healthcare team, providing patient education, care, and outreach in support of oral health.

Develop Essential Skills In
  • Patient assessment and treatment planning
  • Preventative and therapeutic dental care
  • Oral radiography
  • Patient education and health promotion
  • Community outreach and education
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You May Enjoy This Line of Study If You…

  • Desire to help others achieve better health
  • Want to learn more about oral health and dental operations
  • Appreciate working very hands-on with the general public
  • Prefer a more office-oriented and more structured environment
  • Show empathy and compassion for patients

Through quality, comprehensive, evidence-based education, patient-centered clinical care, and community outreach experiences, the mission of the South College Dental Hygiene program is to equip future dental hygienists with the skills necessary to reach their potential as a dental healthcare provider. The program faculty seek to instill in graduates the desire to continue education, become life-long learners, and contribute to the enhancement of the dental professional.

Program Goals and Expected Outcomes

The goal of the Dental Hygiene program is to prepare competent dental hygiene graduates who utilize and integrate knowledge and apply critical thinking skills related to biomedical science, dental science, and dental hygiene science.

  1. Provide clinical experiences and opportunities that support and encourage the development of communication and psychomotor skills relevant to the practice of dental hygiene.
  2. Prepare dental hygiene graduates to display professionalism along with ethical leadership in the delivery of evidenced based patient care.
  3. Prepare dental hygiene graduates to utilize reasoning, judgment, critical thinking skills, and leadership skills necessary to identify problems, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions.
  4. Consider student’s individuality and support their needs and development, which encourage them to reach their full potential as dental healthcare providers.
  5. Prepare dental hygiene graduates who can function in the interprofessional health care system and meet the needs of elderly, medically compromised, culturally diverse, disadvantaged, and mentally and physically challenged.
  6. Encourage participation in community-based outreach programs to improve the oral health and well-being of others.
  7. Instill the desire to continue education by becoming a life-long learner, advancing the practice of dental hygiene through research, and participating in professional associations.

Upon completion of the Dental Hygiene program:

  • Dental hygiene graduates will be competent in teaching patients about health education strategies for disease prevention and health promotion, and counseling patients about the impact of good nutrition on oral health.
  • Dental hygiene graduates will be competent in delivering patient care including use of infection and hazard control procedures to prevent transmission of disease and provide a safe environment. Including assessing, treatment planning, and providing preventative and therapeutic dental hygiene care for children, adolescents, adults, geriatric, and special needs patients.
  • Dental hygiene graduates will continue education and become life-long learners, advancing the practice of dental hygiene through research and participating in professional associations. Dental Hygiene students will be competent in producing effective written communication on literature reviews, research, and assignments.
  • Dental hygiene graduates will be competent in providing community and public oral health strategies through outreach service.
Role of the Dental Hygienist in Health Care Delivery

A Dental Hygienist is a licensed oral healthcare provider, educator, and clinician who provides educational, preventative, and therapeutic services promoting oral health and total health for the control of oral diseases.

While the scope of practice for Dental Hygienists varies from state to state, the routinely performed functions of a licensed Dental Hygienist include:

  • Intraoral and extraoral examination, including teeth, oral structures, and soft tissue exam
  • Oral cancer and blood pressure screening
  • Acquisition and interpreting dental radiographs
  • Delivery of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide oxygen sedation
  • Calculus and plaque removal from above and below the gum line
  • Oral hygiene instructions including the development of personal oral hygiene programs for home care
  • Applying caries-preventive agents, such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants
  • Placing temporary fillings, applying periodontal dressings, and removing sutures
  • Nutrition and tobacco cessation counseling
  • Educating the public about good oral hygiene habits
  • Designing community outreach dental health programs
  • Oral health care research, data collection, and tabulation
  • Working with special needs patients
Dental Hygiene Licensure

Licensure is granted by each individual state. Dental Hygienists practice in accordance with requirements of individual state dental practice acts.

In virtually every state, several steps are required before a license can be granted:

  • Graduation from an accredited Dental Hygiene program
  • Successful completion of the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Successful completion of a regional or state clinical board examination
  • Successful completion of the Dental Anesthesia Certification Course within the program
  • Successful completion of the Nitrous Oxide Monitoring and Administration Certification Course within the program

As licensing requirements vary from state to state, it is necessary to contact each licensing authority in a given state for its specific application requirements and procedures.

Typically, state boards have the authority to deny a license to an applicant who has committed an act for which the board could revoke a license. Persons convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor may be refused licensure, as well as those disciplined on the license application about prior convictions, discipline, etc. Most states conduct background checks on a case-by-case basis and may take into consideration the seriousness of the offense and other factors in making the decision to grant or withhold licensure.

Overview of the Dental Hygiene Program

The eleven-quarter Dental Hygiene program curriculum provides a strong foundation in the Biomedical Sciences, Dental Sciences, Dental Hygiene Science, and Basic Clinical Education providing the biological basis of the health of the teeth and oral cavity, decay prevention, and dental health maintenance. Upon the completion of the Dental Hygiene program, the graduate will be a member of the healthcare team who provides patient education, clinical and therapeutic services that support and facilitate the maintenance of oral health.

The course of study in the Dental Hygiene program provides a broad-based education in psychology, sociology, biomedical sciences, dental sciences, and dental hygiene sciences with a special emphasis on teaching, community/public health, and research.

Programmatic Accreditation

The program in Dental Hygiene is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and has been granted the accreditation status of “approval without reporting requirements.” The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education. The Commission on Dental Accreditation can be contacted at (312) 440-4653 or at 211 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611-2678. The Commission’s web address is:

Admission Requirements

Applicants interested in this program are required to visit the college and meet individually with an admissions representative and program faculty. Admission is dependent upon class size. Applicants will be reviewed based on minimum requirements for cumulative GPA of required pre-requisite general education courses, cumulative GPA of required pre-requisite science courses, and interview score. The Admissions, Progression and Retention (APR) Committee will make admission recommendations to the Chair of Dental Education for final approval. The Chair may accept or reject the recommendation of the Committee. 

Applicants seeking admissions must:

  1. Meet South College General Undergraduate Admission or Admission of Transfer Student requirements.
  2. Complete the South College Dental Hygiene program application and admissions essay. The Dental Hygiene program has rolling enrollment with cohort admissions in the Spring and Fall quarters.
  3. Have earned a minimum of 2.50 cumulative grade point average in required pre-requisite General Education courses.
  4. Have earned a minimum of 2.50 cumulative grade point average in required pre-requisite Science courses.
  5. Complete all Dental Hygiene Prerequisite Courses: ENG 1201 English Composition, MAT 1100 College Algebra, BIO 1110 Anatomy & Physiology I, BIO 1120 Anatomy & Physiology I Lab, BIO 1130 Anatomy & Physiology II, BIO 1140 Anatomy & Physiology II Lab, BIO 1160 Microbiology, BIO 1170 Microbiology Lab, CHM 1010 General Chemistry I, CHM 1020 General Chemistry Lab I, and PSY 1811 General Psychology.  A minimum grade of “C” or better in a maximum of two attempts.
  6. Commit to full attendance and participation in a rigorous educational program which requires class participation, significant out-of-class preparation time, and clinical education assignments.

Students who have been unsuccessful in the South College Dental Hygiene program, or other Dental Hygiene programs, will be reviewed on an individual basis. Students who present transcripts indicating failure from two Dental Hygiene programs will not be considered for admission or readmission to the South College Dental Hygiene program.

Requirements for Admission (Other than Academic)

In addition to course work, each student must provide proof of ability to perform the skills needed to practice dental hygiene effectively. Health care facilities must meet federal guidelines, and students must also meet these requirements in order to be allowed to gain clinical experience. All Dental Hygiene students must comply with communicable diseases/blood-borne pathogen requirements that the clinical agencies require. Therefore, proof of the following are requirements for the dental hygiene program applicant:

  1. Health history and physical exam certifying ability to function in the required capacity prior to admission.
  2. Common communicable disease immunization or immunity, including MMR (2 in series if born after 1957), Tetanus (booster required every 10 years) and Varicella vaccine (2 in series). A vaccine titer test showing immunity is also acceptable.
  3. Hepatitis B immunization (3 in series) or completed Declination Form for Hepatitis B Vaccination depending on the requirements of the clinical affiliate. The Declination Form must only be used for medical reasons and must be documented by student’s primary care provider. A vaccine titer test showing immunity is also acceptable.
  4. Annual Flu immunization or completed Declination Form for Influenza Vaccination depending on the requirements of the clinical affiliate. The Declination Form must only be used for medical reasons and must be documented by student’s primary care provider.
  5. Annual screening for tuberculosis or x-ray follow-up.
  6. Acceptable drug screen. Students may be required to obtain more than one acceptable drug screen per year depending on the requirements of the clinical affiliate. In any case where a drug screen is positive and no authorized prescription is produced to validate the presence of the drug in the individual’s system, continuation in the program will be denied. Upon notification of the drug screen results, the student will have 5 working days to provide prescription validation. Students are responsible for costs associated with any required testing.
  7. Acceptable criminal background check for a minimum of past 15 years. Students may be required to obtain more than one acceptable criminal background check per year depending on the requirements of the clinical affiliate. If the background check reveals previous criminal convictions, admittance into the program will be made on a case-by-case basis. Students who are denied clinical experiences due to past convictions may be unable to progress in the program which will result in failure to complete the required courses for the program.
  8. Proof of health insurance coverage throughout the entire Dental Hygiene program.

Students admitted to the Dental Hygiene program must demonstrate the functional capacities as communicated via the Department of Dental Education. Students who believe they will not be able to meet one or more of these requirements without accommodation or modification must notify the Program Director of Dental Education and the Student Affairs Coordinator, and a determination will be made on a case-by-case basis whether reasonable accommodation may be made. In no instance will an accommodation be made which will compromise dental hygiene care, or that will put patients or other students at risk. Accommodation granted when a student is generally admitted to South College does no guarantee that this modification will apply to admission to the dental hygiene program.

Acceptance into a South College program does not imply or guarantee that a student will be able to obtain licensure, certification, or employment. Several South College programs require field experiences during the curriculum (e.g., clinicals, internships, practicums, student teaching) and/or lead to a field that requires a license or certification. Background checks are required prior to matriculation into these programs and may further be required prior to the field experiences and/or licensure/certification. Students should be aware that a prior misdemeanor or felony arrest or conviction (or an event of this nature occurring during the program) may restrict the individual’s ability to gain admission into the program, progress into field experiential training, and/or obtain professional licensure or certification. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the program of any issues that may have occurred in the past or that arise during the program. The events may require voluntary withdrawal or administrative dismissal from the program. All students are responsible for learning the requirements for licensure within their home state or any state in which he/she wishes to practice ensuring ability to meet these requirements.


The Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene program offered at the Nashville campus is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and has been granted the accreditation status of “approval without reporting requirements”. The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education. The Commission on Dental Accreditation can be contacted at (312) 440-4653 or at 211 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. The Commission’s web address is:

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