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 and cumulative GPA of required pre-requisite science courses. 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 (Withdrawal “W” grades do not count towards the 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.

Functional Standards for Dental Hygiene

A candidate for the Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene program must have abilities and skills in five categories: sensory, motor, cognitive, communication, and behavioral/social. Students must demonstrate the following functional capacities. Students who believe that they will not be able to meet one or more of these requirements without accommodation or modification must notify the Dental Hygiene Program Director and Director of Student Services, and a determination will be made on a case-by-case basis whether a reasonable accommodation may be made. In no instance will an accommodation be made which will put patients or other students at risk. An accommodation granted when a student is generally admitted to South College does not guarantee that this modification will apply to admission to the Dental Hygiene program.

 Function Requirement Examples of Tasks for
VisionAdequate to ensure the safety of self and others in the classroom and clinical settings.Students must be able to identify fine-tipped instrumentation from two feet.
HearingAdequate to allow effective communication with patients and others in person and by electronic means, and to ensure the safety of self and patients. Students must be able to differentiate demands from the dental team while there is background equipment and other conversations within the dental operatory without the use of reading lips due to PPE mask requirements.Hear and understand muffled or low-pitched communication without visualization of the communicator’s mouth/lips and within 20 feet.Hear blood pressure sounds through a stethoscope.
Tactile SensoryAdequate to allow effective evaluation and therapeutic intervention related to patient care, and to ensure the safety of self and others in providing care. Students must be able to pick up, attach, and deliver instrumentation single-handedly. Dental hygiene requires students to use their non-dominant hand without breaks in asepsis.Detecting odors sufficient to maintain environmental safety and patient needs.Be free of reportable communicable diseases and chemical abuse.Demonstrate immunity to measles, rubella, rubeola, tuberculosis, and hepatitis A/B, or be vaccinated against these diseases, including the influenza vaccination during the season.
Gross motor strength and coordinationAdequate to ensure the safety of self and others in class, and lab sessions and clinical activities. Stand, bend, stoop, and/or sit for long periods of time in one location with minimum/no breaks.Ambulate/move around without assistive devices.
Fine motor strength and coordinationAdequate to allow mastery of activities requiring detailed movements. Dental hygiene students must be capable of themanipulation of instruments, supplies, and equipment with speed, dexterity, and good eye-hand coordination.
Critical Thinking abilityAdequate to allow mastery of basic course content and to demonstrate sound judgment in simulated and real-life oral health care situations. Demonstrate physical dexterity using dental instruments. Dental hygienists must anticipate the needs of the patient and have the ability to act quickly. Students must also understand the required equipment, supplies and instrumentation necessary to gather for procedures they are assigned.Demonstrate the ability to anticipate and function while in stressful situations.Possess short- and long-term memory sufficient to perform tasks such as, but not limited to, assessment of the patient, the provision of a dental hygiene diagnosis, treatment planning, implementation of the treatment plan and evaluation of the outcomes.Make appropriate judgment decisions.
Interpersonal skillsAdequate to allow establishment of effective working and/or therapeutic relationships with patients, dentists and other healthcare professionals. Demonstrate the use of positive coping skills under stress.Demonstrate calm and effective responses.Exhibit positive interpersonal skills in patient, staff, and faculty interactions.
CommunicationAdequate to allow completion of course work and effective verbal and written communication with patients, families, communities, peers, and others. Students must have the ability to communicate quickly and professionally with the dental team to ensure effective and safe patient care.Communicate and understand fluent English both verbally and in writing.
Academic Progression and Retention in the Dental Hygiene Major

Students admitted the Dental Hygiene program are required to earn a minimum grade of “C” in all major courses. Students earning less than a “C” in any major course will not be allowed to continue in the current rotation of courses, must reapply for admission to the program in a later rotation, and must repeat the course earning a grade of “C” or higher. No guarantee of readmission is made.

***If a student achieves a test average below 75%, other course grading categories will not be considered in the final grade.***

  • A grade of 75%, calculated on all didactic tests and the final exam equally weighted is required for successful completion of all Dental Hygiene courses.
  • If the student achieves a test average below 75%, other class activities such as presentations, literature reviews and assignments will not be considered in the final grade.
  • If the student achieves a test average below 75%, the course grade will equal the numerical value of the test average.
  • A minimum of C must be earned in all Dental Hygiene courses.

Mandatory Exam Remediation

Tutoring can be arranged for any student who demonstrates academic need or requests additional help. If an exam score is below 75%, mandatory remediation must be completed within the following week.

Evaluation and Grading Policy

The student must demonstrate knowledge of the material and competence in its application through classroom, laboratory, clinic performance, tests, and competency examinations. The mandatory final examination is comprehensive. Grades are assigned using the South College published grade scale.

Grade Scale

86-92BAbove Average
Below 75 Failing
Program Termination

Students accepted into the Dental Hygiene program in the Department of Dental Education are expected to demonstrate professional behavior and demeanor. Professional behavior encompasses a broad range of expectations, including the expectation of trustworthiness and at all times keeping the welfare of the individual receiving care a priority. To this end, any instance of student intent to misrepresent facts will be cause for immediate program dismissal.

Misrepresentation of facts, verbal or written, including but not limited to the following situations, is prohibited.

  • Bribery
  • Deliberate withholding information about a patient, patient care, and/or self
  • Plagiarism
  • Presenting another student’s work as one’s own
  • Cheating in any form
  • Forgery or falsification in any form
  • Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the course instructor. Students are expected to respect and follow the South College Academic Honor Code.

Grounds for immediate termination from the Dental Hygiene programs include:

  1. Receiving a grade of D, F, or W in any major course listed in the curriculum.
  2. Insubordination.
  3. The conviction and/or known use of, distribution of, or possession of illegal drugs or controlled substances.
  4. Failure to accomplish didactic and/or clinical assignments.
  5. Unprofessional, unsafe, and/or unethical conduct.
  6. Academic dishonesty in related or professional courses.
  7. Participant clinical agencies retain the right to reject any student whose behavior may be hazardous to the agency.

Any student wishing to reapply to any program must contact the Chair of Dental Education and follow the Program Readmission policy outlined in the Dental Hygiene Department Policy and Program Manual.

Voluntary Withdrawal

Students withdrawing from a program due may reapply for program readmission as delineated by the policy in the Dental Hygiene Program and Policy Manual.

Readmission/Reapplication to the Program

Students will be considered for readmission to the Dental Hygiene program only one time on a space available basis. Students who have voluntarily withdrawn from the Dental Hygiene program in good academic standing or who are unsuccessful in the South College Dental Hygiene program may apply for readmission based on the following criteria:

1.    Eligibility requirements that allow application for readmission are as follows:

a.    Students who have withdrawn from the Dental Hygiene program voluntarily by the drop/add date are eligible to apply for readmission.

b.    Students who are academically unsuccessful in one Dental Hygiene course are eligible to apply for readmission.

i.   Academically unsuccessful is defined as:

1.     Voluntary or involuntary withdrawal from the Dental Hygiene program, which results in a withdrawal grade (W) or a failing grade in the course.

2.    Earning a failing grade in a Dental Hygiene course.

2.    Ineligibility requirements that do not allow application for readmission are as follows:

a.    Students who are unsuccessful in two Dental Hygiene courses cumulatively are ineligible for readmission.

b.    Students who are academically unsuccessful in any repeated Dental Hygiene course are ineligible for readmission (students may only repeat a Dental Hygiene course one time).

c.    Students who have been unsuccessful due to clinical failure or cumulative occurrences because of behaving in a manner showing lack of professional or clinical judgment may not be eligible for readmission.

The Department of Dental Education reserves the right to consider mitigating circumstances affecting any of the above situations.

Students desiring readmission to the first quarter of the Dental Hygiene program must reapply and will be evaluated with new program applicants. Program readmission consideration to second or any subsequent quarters requires a formal Letter of Intent from the student submitted to the Department Chair one quarter prior to the desired readmission date. The letter should detail the reasons that are believed to have led to the lack of success, as well as changes that have been put in place to ensure success if readmission is granted.

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.

Factors such as grade point average, faculty evaluation, and space availability are considered in readmission decisions. Requests for readmission will be reviewed on an individual basis.

Students must apply for readmission at such time that granting of readmission will occur to allow for classes to be resumed within one calendar year. The faculty reserves the right to require any student offered readmission to repeat courses or portions of courses in cases where a significant time has elapsed, and skills/knowledge must be refreshed.

A denial of readmission may be appealed to the Dean of Academic and Student Services within three business days of the notification by following the Appeals Process listed in the South College Academic Catalog (

e 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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