Dental Hygiene

Career and Program Description

Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals who have graduated from an accredited dental hygiene program in an institution of higher education and are licensed in dental hygiene to provide educational, clinical, research, administrative and therapeutic services supporting total health through the promotion of optimum oral health.

Dental hygienists provide clinical services in a variety of settings such as private dental practices, community health settings, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, schools, faculty practice clinics, state and federal government facilities, and Indian reservations. In addition to clinical practice, there are career opportunities in education, research, sales and marketing, public health, administration, and government. Dental hygienists may choose to combine positions in different workplace settings and career paths for professional variety. Working in education and clinical practice is one example. Flexible working hours can be a feature of this profession, with opportunities for part time or full time employment.

What does a dental hygienist do?

  • Assess the patient’s oral tissues and overall health.

  • Screen the patient for any oral diseases or other abnormalities.

  • Identify if the patient is at risk for disease.

  • Formulate evidence-based, patient-centered treatment care plans.

  • Perform the clinical procedures outlined in the treatment care plan.

  • Educate patients regarding oral hygiene and preventive oral care. 

  • Evaluate the outcomes of educational strategies and clinical procedures provided.

The general responsibilities of dental hygienists include…

  • Removing deposits such as plaque, calculus and stains from the teeth.

  • Exposing and processing dental radiographs.

  • Applying cavity-preventive agents, such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants.

  • Administering antimicrobial agents.

  • Providing clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for interpretation by other health professionals.

  • In some states (including Oregon), dental hygienists…

    • Administer local anesthetics and nitrous oxide.

    • Place filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings.

    • Remove sutures.

    • Perform root-debridement as a part of periodontal therapy.

    • Polish restorations.

The Dental Hygiene program offers a two-year curriculum that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The program of study prepares students for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and regional licensure examinations.

Students enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program perform exposure prone procedures and are required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment during all laboratory and clinical activities that produce airborne particulate matter, or expose students to patients during dental procedures. An exposure prone procedure is one in which there is an increased opportunity for the exchange of blood borne pathogens between the patient and the dental health care provider due to the nature of the procedure being performed.

Safety policies, protocols, and procedures are taught and followed according to OSHA regulations and CDC standards to provide a safe learning and patient care environment. The program policies on Blood borne Pathogens and Infectious Disease are available to applicants upon request. Upon acceptance to the program, students receive extensive training in this area.

Applicants who have an infectious disease or who are carriers of an infectious disease should seek counsel from their physician and the program director prior to application. The college follows CDC suggested work restrictions for health-care personnel infected with or exposed to major infectious diseases in health care settings, from the CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings–2003, available at Table 1, attached to and incorporated by this reference to this policy.

All PCC students enrolled in a health care or child care program, including dental hygiene, with requirements for practical experience of field training have to pass a Criminal History Check (CHC) and drug screen as a condition of their acceptance into a medical or other facility for training.

Students who do not pass the CHC and drug screen may not be eligible to complete training at affiliated clinical rotations sites, to sit for licensing or certification exams, obtain state licensure, or be hired for some professional positions. If you believe that your history may interfere with your ability to complete the program of study or to obtaining licensure, or certification in your chosen field, you should contact the appropriate state board or program director.

Computer skills: Students must have acquired basic computer skills including but not limited to: word processing, use of spreadsheets, electronic presentations, internet navigation, email management, and use of software programs or applications. It is recommended that this preparation be completed prior to entry in the program. The Dental Hygiene program requires one course in each of the following areas: nutrition, communications, sociology and psychology.

Applications are accepted each year from January 1 to April 15. Twenty students and twelve alternates are selected each year based upon specific admissions criteria.

Health Admissions Office

Sylvania Campus, Building CC, Room 208
Portland Community College
P.O. Box 19000
Portland, Oregon 97280-0990

For additional help call 971-722-4795 or check the website:

Degrees and Certificates Offered

Associate of Applied Science Degree

Dental Hygiene

Academic Prerequisites

  • Completion of the following courses or their equivalents  with a letter grade of "C" or higher are required to be considered for application to the Dental Hygiene Program:
    1. WR 121Z
    2. MTH 65 or higher
    3. BI 231 and BI 232 sequence with lab. Students planning to transfer dental hygiene course work to a university baccalaureate degree should take BI 231, BI 232, BI 233 and CH 104, CH 105, CH 106
    4. BI 234 with lab (completed within the last seven years
    5. CH 102 or CH 106. These courses are required for entry into the program and may be used to fulfill the AAS General Education requirement.
    6. PSY 101
    7. SOC 204
    8. COMM 111Z
  • All prerequisite courses must be complete by the end of winter term prior to the application deadline. Courses planned for spring term will not be considered. Pass/No Pass grade is not acceptable in the prerequisite courses.
  • The Dental Hygiene Program is a limited entry program with restricted enrollment.
    • The admissions process is competitive and based on a point system. Applicants with the highest point totals will be accepted. Completing admission requirements and applying to the programs does not guarantee admission. For our current point evaluation sheet please visit Candidates will be notified of their admissions status by the beginning of June.

Academic Requirements

  • None

Non-Academic Prerequisites

  • All students are required to be immunized against Hepatitis B as well as evidence of immunity to measles. Tetanus immunization and current tuberculin skin test (TST). Test must be within previous twelve months. Positive TST will require evidence of normal chest x-ray (supply upon acceptance).

Non-Academic Requirements

  • None

Dental Hygiene AAS Degree

Minimum 106 credits. Students must also meet Associate Degree Comprehensive Requirements and Associate of Applied Science Requirements. Students must complete a total of four courses of General Education. Some courses specified within the program may be used as General Education. In addition to required courses in the program of study, students must satisfy MTH 58/65 competency. Students should consult with program advisors for course planning.

Course of Study

The following is a general example of a course of study. Students should consult with a program advisor for course planning.

Plan of Study Grid
First TermCredits
DH 101 Dental Hygiene Theory I 4
DH 104 Dental Hygiene Practice I 3
DH 113 Dental Anatomy 2
DH 113L Dental Anatomy (Lab) 1
DH 121 Oral Health Education and Promotion 1
DH 127 Medical Emergencies 2
General Education: 1 course 1
Second Term
DH 102 Dental Hygiene Theory II 2
DH 105 Dental Hygiene Practice II 3
DH 109 Dental Radiology I 2
DH 109L Dental Radiology I (Lab) 1
DH 128 Oral Histology 2
DH 228 Head and Neck Anatomy 2
General Education: 1 course 1
Third Term
DH 103 Dental Hygiene Theory III 2
DH 106 Dental Hygiene Practice III 3
DH 110 Cariology 2
DH 129 Oral Pathology 3
DH 210 Dental Radiology Lab II 1
DH 230 Dental Materials 2
DH 246 Pharmacology 3
General Education: 1 course 1
Fourth Term
DH 204A Dental Hygiene Practice IV 2 1
DH 208 Community Oral Health I 2
DH 240 Dental Hygiene Restorative Theory I 2
DH 241 Dental Hygiene Restorative Lab I 3
DH 242 Dental Hygiene Restorative Theory II 1
FN 225 Nutrition 4
General Education: 1 course 1
Fifth Term
DH 201 Dental Hygiene Theory IV 2
DH 204B Dental Hygiene Practice IV 2 4
DH 220 Pain Management 3
DH 220L Pain Management Lab 2
DH 243 Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic II 2
DH 252 Community Oral Health II 2
DH 260 Periodontology I 2
Sixth Term
DH 202 Dental Hygiene Theory V 3
DH 205 Dental Hygiene Practice V 5
DH 236 Ethics & Jurisprudence 1
DH 244 Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic III 2
DH 250 Research Methods and Issues in Oral Health 1
Seventh Term
DH 203 Dental Hygiene Theory VI 2
DH 206 Dental Hygiene Practice VI 5
DH 245 Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic IV 2
DH 253 Community Oral Health III 2
 Total Credits106

Recommended General Education: COMM 111, PSY 101, SOC 204


 Choose one of the following to fulfill the requirement: (DH 204A and DH 204B) or DH 204.

DH 100. Special Dental Hygiene Practice. 1-5 Credit.

Clinic experience for dental hygiene students or graduates needing to maintain or enhance clinic skills outside the regularly scheduled clinic sequence, especially in preparation for Board examinations. Instructor permission required.

DH 101. Dental Hygiene Theory I. 4 Credits.

Studies basic dental hygiene procedures, theory and philosophy as applied to direct patient services.

DH 102. Dental Hygiene Theory II. 2 Credits.

Continues on the study of dental hygiene theory and practices, including oral prophylaxis classifications, current non-surgical periodontal therapy, alternative oral physiotherapy aids, dental hygiene process of care and school clinic policies and procedures. Co-requisite: DH 105.

DH 103. Dental Hygiene Theory III. 2 Credits.

Expansion of the concepts of dental hygiene theory to include the more difficult oral conditions and special needs.

DH 104. Dental Hygiene Practice I. 3 Credits.

Applies dental hygiene theory and techniques in a laboratory setting on dental manikins. Work with patients will begin when specified skill levels are reached.

DH 105. Dental Hygiene Practice II. 3 Credits.

Students apply dental hygiene preventive and therapeutic principles while providing patient care in a clinical environment. Patient care includes oral prophylaxis and oral hygiene. Co-requisite: DH 102.

DH 106. Dental Hygiene Practice III. 3 Credits.

Continued clinical activities with increased difficulty in the type and number of cases.

DH 109. Dental Radiology I. 2 Credits.

Covers basic theory of dental radiography. Includes intra-oral techniques with emphasis on radiation safety practices and techniques. Corequisite: DH 109L.

DH 109L. Dental Radiology I (Lab). 1 Credit.

Covers basic theory of dental radiography. Includes intra-oral technique practice on manikins with emphasis on radiation safety practices and techniques. Corequisite: DH 109.

DH 110. Cariology. 2 Credits.

Covers the etiology of dental caries as an infectious disease, introduces caries risk assessment, and the rationale and methods for caries management.

DH 113. Dental Anatomy. 2 Credits.

Introduces the study of anatomical characteristics of all permanent and deciduous teeth and their surrounding tissues.

DH 113L. Dental Anatomy (Lab). 1 Credit.

Includes laboratory study and application of anatomic characteristics of all permanent and deciduous teeth and their surrounding tissues. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 113.

DH 121. Oral Health Education and Promotion. 1 Credit.

Familiarizes the student with selected teaching techniques having direct application to oral health education concepts.

DH 127. Medical Emergencies. 2 Credits.

Study of medical emergencies that occur in the dental office including prevention, recognition and appropriate intervention.

DH 128. Oral Histology. 2 Credits.

Introduces microscopic anatomy and embryology of the oral tissues.

DH 129. Oral Pathology. 3 Credits.

Introduces the study of oral diseases and recognition of conditions that may require consultation and treatment by a dentist prior to, or concurrent with dental hygiene procedures. Prerequisites: DH 128; BI 122 or BI 232.

DH 201. Dental Hygiene Theory IV. 2 Credits.

Dental hygiene theory applied to patients having periodontal disease; instruction includes comprehensive patient management. Co-requisites: DH 204 or DH 204B.

DH 202. Dental Hygiene Theory V. 3 Credits.

Advanced dental hygiene theory applied to patients having moderate to severe periodontal disease and provision of a variety of expanded dental hygiene functions. Co-requisite: DH 205.

DH 203. Dental Hygiene Theory VI. 2 Credits.

Covers current principles that relate to modern dentistry with an emphasis on expanded practice hygiene. Includes opportunity to review patient cases and practice management issues.

DH 204A. Dental Hygiene Practice IV. 1 Credit.

Continues clinical activities to include treating beginning periodontal disease and moderate deposit patients. Prerequisites: DH 103 and DH 106.

DH 204B. Dental Hygiene Practice IV. 4 Credits.

Continues clinical activities to include treating moderate periodontal patients and patients with moderate/heavy deposits; activities will correlate to theory lecture course DH 201. Prerequisite: DH 204A. Corequisite: DH 201.

DH 205. Dental Hygiene Practice V. 5 Credits.

Continues clinical activities including treatment of patients having moderate to severe periodontal disease and the provision of dental hygiene expanded functions. Activities correlate to DH 202.

DH 206. Dental Hygiene Practice VI. 5 Credits.

Advanced dental hygiene clinic activities to include all aspects of previous training at increased skill levels. Nitrous oxide sedation included, plus simulated private practice and mock board activities.

DH 208. Community Oral Health I. 2 Credits.

Introduction to national and local public health issues and initiatives for delivering care to varied populations.

DH 210. Dental Radiology Lab II. 1 Credit.

A continuation of DH 109, Dental Radiology I. Course will include provision of basic dental radiographic services to clinic patients including more advanced radiographic techniques.

DH 220. Pain Management. 3 Credits.

Covers the theory and techniques of pain control through the administration of local anesthetics. Explores nitrous oxide sedation as it applies to the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene. Emphasizes patient evaluation, pharmacodynamics, administration methods and safety issues. Prepares students for management of pain or anxiety during dental hygiene procedures. Prerequisites: DH 127, DH 228, DH 246. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 220L.

DH 220L. Pain Management Lab. 2 Credits.

Covers the administration of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation techniques for safe and effective patient management of pain and anxiety related to dental procedures. Includes appropriate safety precautions, including handling of contaminated sharps. Prerequisite/Concurrent: DH 220.

DH 228. Head and Neck Anatomy. 2 Credits.

Studies the structures and functions of oral anatomy with emphasis on those structures important in the administration of local anesthesia.

DH 230. Dental Materials. 2 Credits.

Classification, chemistry, physical properties, and uses of dental materials including manipulation techniques.

DH 232. Nitrous Oxide Sedation. 2 Credits.

Theory and clinical application of nitrous oxide sedation for dental patients as prescribed by the State Dental Practice Acts of Oregon, Washington and California.

DH 236. Ethics & Jurisprudence. 1 Credit.

Studies legal restrictions and ethical responsibilities associated with the practice of dental hygiene and dentistry.

DH 240. Dental Hygiene Restorative Theory I. 2 Credits.

Introduces restorative dentistry procedures, theory, and philosophy in preparation for developing introductory skills prior to restorative care with patients. Expands upon previous knowledge introduced in dental anatomy, cariology, and dental materials with a focus on biomaterials, techniques, and procedures used in restorative dentistry and caries management. Prerequisite: DH 110, DH 113, DH 230. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 241.

DH 241. Dental Hygiene Restorative Lab I. 3 Credits.

Applies restorative theory and philosophy utilizing hands-on objectives to demonstrate introductory competency in restorative procedures. Introduces restorative techniques in a laboratory setting in preparation for placement of permanent, temporary, and therapeutic restorations on patients. Prerequisites: DH 110, DH 113, DH 230. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 240.

DH 242. Dental Hygiene Restorative Theory II. 1 Credit.

Introduces concepts and clinic processes in preparation for restorative patient care. Introduces alternative patient care restorative techniques and caries preventive measures. Prerequisites: DH 240, DH 241. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 243.

DH 243. Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic II. 2 Credits.

Introduces dental hygiene clinical practice in restorative dentistry and associated procedures as allowed by the Oregon Board of Dentistry. Provides opportunity to perform a variety of restorative services to patients at an introductory skill level under direct supervision of clinic faculty. Offers opportunity to continue skill development with restorative procedures in a laboratory setting. Prerequisites: DH 240, DH 241. Prerequisite/concurrent: DH 242.

DH 244. Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic III. 2 Credits.

Continues dental hygiene clinical practice in restorative dentistry and associated procedures as allowed by the Oregon Board of Dentistry. Offers opportunity to provide a variety of restorative services to patients at a developing skill level under direct supervision of clinic faculty. Provides opportunity to continue skill development in restorative procedures in a laboratory setting. Prerequisite: DH 243.

DH 245. Dental Hygiene Restorative Clinic IV. 2 Credits.

Completes the series of dental hygiene clinical practice in restorative dentistry and associated procedures as allowed by the Oregon Board of Dentistry. Offers opportunity to provide a variety of restorative services to patients with clinical competence for an entry level clinician under direct supervision of clinic faculty. Provides opportunity to continue skill development with restorative procedures in a laboratory setting. Prerequisites: DH 244.

DH 246. Pharmacology. 3 Credits.

Introduces various drugs used in the practice of dentistry. Students study nomenclature, classification, dosage, and effects of different pharmacologic compounds.

DH 250. Research Methods and Issues in Oral Health. 1 Credit.

Introduction to epidemiological studies and basic statistics in preparation to critically evaluate evidence-based research of oral health.

DH 252. Community Oral Health II. 2 Credits.

Students utilize public health program planning models to develop and participate with community oral health programs for various populations.

DH 253. Community Oral Health III. 2 Credits.

Covers development, implementation and evaluation of dental health projects in the community. Prerequisites: DH 208 and DH 252.

DH 260. Periodontology I. 2 Credits.

Introduction to the science and management of periodontal diseases. Emphasizes microbial, biochemical and etiological principles. The course will correlate to clinical activities.