• Essential Functions of the Dental Hygienist

  • Essential functions are the qualities and abilities needed by each student if they are to maximize their potential for success both in the academic classroom and in clinical settings. The ability to meet these standards for the Program is required for successful acclimation into the profession, and these standards must be maintained throughout the student's enrollment in the Dental Hygiene program at Mt. Hood Community College. In the event a student is unable to maintain these standards, with or without accommodation, the student may be required to withdraw from the course or program.

    However, Mt. Hood Community college is committed to making reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities in order to enable them to perform successfully the skills necessary for a student in the Dental Hygiene Program. MHCC receives applications from a diverse body of potential students, including students with disabilities. In keeping with applicable federal and state law regarding disabilities, reasonable accommodations to help students meet academic and technical standards will be provided where appropriate, and determined on a case by case basis. Any student wishing accommodations should contact Accessible Education Services at 503-491-6923 for additional information.

    Statement Regarding Exposure to Bloodborne and other Infectious Diseases

    Dental hygienists are professionals who practice direct patient care and are therefore potentially exposed to a number of serious infections and bloodborne disease pathogens. Among these are hepatitis viruses, influenza, and HIV infection. The program curriculum includes in-depth study of disease transmission and comprehensive preventive practices in order to ensure students, patients, faculty and supervising dentists are as safe from exposure as possible.

    The program follows up-to-date CDC, OSHA, and OSAP requirements in all aspects of lab and clinical care, and has an excellent record of exposure prevention. Prior to program entry, all students must comply with health and safety guidelines which include vaccination and/or proof of immunity (positive titer) to hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). Program faculty and dentists are required to maintain current immunizations as well. Should an exposure occur, the program and the college supports the student in testing and follow up care per current CDC and OSHA guidelines.

    Exceptions to immunization requirements are very rare; any concerns must be discussed with the program director as early as possible.

    The following are the essential functions which are expected of a student accepted in the Dental Hygiene Program at Mt. Hood Community College. Although it is probable that students will continue to develop and improve these abilities, those listed below are the minimal expectation for entry-level students.

    Visual Acuity

    Depth perception and excellent hand-eye coordination are required when using sharp instruments to enter the oral cavity and perform functions within the oral cavity. Students must be able to interpret data from electronic health records and diagnostic equipment such as a blood pressure cuff dial or screen. The ability to discern color changes in the head and neck region and oral cavity is necessary.


    Students must have correctable hearing in at least one ear and be able to develop reasonable skills of percussion and auscultation, and must be able to discern changes in the sound of a tooth/root surface during instrumentation. The identification of the audible signal(s) emitted from equipment is necessary.

    Motor Skills

    Students must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from a patient by palpation and other diagnostic modalities. Candidates must also be able to perform the motor movement skills necessary to render safe clinical dental hygiene treatment. Necessary clinical skills involve procedures requiring (but not limited to) grasping, fingering, pinching, pushing, pulling, holding, extending, and rotation.

    Additionally, the candidate must possess the strength to assist a patient in transferring themselves to and from a dental chair.

    Intellectual, Conceptual and Cognitive Skills

    Students must have the ability to measure, assess, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize data. Problem solving, critical thinking and diagnosis (which include obtaining, interpreting, and documenting information) are essential skills. The ability to understand and comprehend multi-dimensional relationships is necessary.

    Communication Skills / Speech

    The student is expected to be able to communicate clearly in English at a level of understanding appropriate to the ability of an individual patient to understand. This communication ability is expected both in the oral and written form. The clinical practice of dental hygiene requires the ability to accurately transfer gathered data into a patient record. Included in this area is therapeutic communication in which a candidate is expected to have (or be able to develop) skill in coaching, facilitating, and touching.

    Emotional Stability/ Personal Temperament

    Direct interaction with patients requires that students are able to routinely demonstrate critical thinking, respond calmly, efficiently, and utilize good listening and communication skills. Students must have the ability to handle the stressors of academically rigorous coursework, as well as stress associated with working in a busy clinical setting with a variety of patients under time and patient management constraints. Time management skills are needed to meet deadlines and time critical tasks associated with professional education and practice. Prioritizing tasks to meet deadlines is expected. Compliance with clinical and workplace rules and regulations related to successful and safe clinical practice is required. The student must possess and demonstrate professional attributes consistent with current local employment standards.

    Cognitive Abilities are those tied to thinking skills and include such areas as focusing, organizing, recording, evaluating, communicating, and applying. The following are the expectations of the Dental Hygiene Program:

    • Comprehend, integrate, and synthesize a large body of information/knowledge in a short time.
    • Analyze complex problems.
    • Reflect on academic and classroom performance accurately, and identify and implement remedies for improvement.
    • Reflect on classroom and academic performance of others entrusted to their charge and accurately identify problems, pose and implement remedies for improvement.
    • Utilize appropriate and effective spoken, written, and non-verbal communication. Students must be able to understand and communicate using the English language at a level consistent with competent professional practice.

    Affective Abilities are those tied to social and emotional skills including interaction with others and ethical beliefs that are consistent with those who work with, and are role models for young people. The following are the expectations of the Dental Hygiene Program.

    • Demonstrate a collaborative work ethic.
    • Demonstrate an appreciation and respect for individual, social, and cultural differences in fellow students, colleagues, staff, host teachers, and learners entrusted to them during their field experiences.
    • Demonstrate a commitment to the safety of their fellow students, themselves, colleagues, staff, host teachers, and learners entrusted to them during their field experiences.
    • Demonstrate the ability to appropriately handle situations that may be emotionally, physically, or intellectually stressful.
    • Demonstrate flexibility and the ability to adjust to changing situations and uncertainty in academic and clinical classroom situations.
    • Demonstrate honesty, integrity, initiative, responsibility, and professionalism.
    • Maintain confidentiality of information consistent with work in academic and clinical classroom situations including but not limited to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
    • Demonstrate self-reflection and responsiveness to professional feedback.

    Observation Skills are those skills, which help maintain awareness of people and situations in the context of classrooms, laboratories, and field situations. The following are the expectations of the Dental Hygiene Program.

    • Observe the appropriate level of students' abilities and behaviors accurately during clinical classroom observations, instructional opportunities, and field placements.
    • Read, comprehend, and interpret information accurately from diagnostic tests, equipment and records of clinical classroom students.

    Psychomotor Skills are those physical skills needed to carry out the activities required of a student in education courses and programs. The following are the expectations of the Dental Hygiene Program.

    • Attend lecture and laboratory classes and access laboratories, classrooms, and workstations.
    • Attend field placements in assignment locations throughout the State of Oregon and if applicable, State of Washington.
    • Accomplish required tasks in academic and field placement settings.
    • Use fine motor skills to accurately and efficiently manipulate equipment for instruction, assessment, and management of clinical classroom students.

    Admission to the Dental Hygiene Program is contingent on students' confirmation that they understand these Essential Functions and believe they can meet them either with or without reasonable accommodations. If a student has a disability that he/she feels may require accommodations to perform any of the tasks identified as essential to the education program, it is the student's responsibility to inform Accessible Education Services so appropriate steps can be taken to accommodate the student's needs.