Dental Hygiene

Associate Degree

About the Program

The Dental Hygiene degree program includes instruction in principles of preventive oral care, including teaching patients self-care, examining patients’ head and neck areas for abnormal health status, nutritional counseling, smoking cessation, applying sealants to the grooves of patients’ teeth, producing diagnostically acceptable dental radiographs (X-rays), managing pain and anxiety, removing deposits from patients’ teeth with scaling procedures and managing health information.

Employment opportunities in South Carolina include private practice positions as employees of dentists. There are also opportunities in public health settings, hospital dental practices, prison dental clinics and in dental hygiene education.

Related career roles include dental product sales representatives, infection control consultants for private dental offices and dental hygiene educators.

The Dental Hygiene program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.

Commission on Dental Accreditation
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
(312) 440-4653

Completion of the five clinical semesters in Phase II qualifies the student to take the Dental Hygiene National Board, the passing of which is a prerequisite for licensure by the South Carolina Board of Dentistry.  Students must also pass a Clinical Dental Hygiene Examination administered by a board approved testing agency to gain licensure in South Carolina.

Learning experiences for students in the Dental Hygiene Degree Program are provided in classrooms and laboratories on the Airport Campus in the Academic Center. Student preclinical and clinical experience is provided in a state-of-the-art dental clinic on the third floor of the Academic Center. Additional required clinical externships are arranged through affiliations with local dentists and dental facilities.

Special Requirements

The additional cost of instruments, equipment, testing and licensing is about $6,000 per academic year.

(Hint) Get information on the Pre-Dental Hygiene Certificate, which must be completed first.

Acceptable Eligibility Criteria for Phase I

  • ACCUPLACER COMPANION (Valid through 9/4/2021) 76 reading; 66 arithmetic, 42 El. Algebra
  • ACCUPLACER NEXT-GEN 250 reading; 250 arithmetic; QAS 237
  • TEAS V (September 2014-present): 60 total percent (minimum reading 70 percent, mathematics 68 percent, science 47 percent) or
  • SAT 1015, EBRW 500 or
  • ACT 19 (minimum verbal 18) or
  • Successful completion of the Pre-Health Care certificate with a 2.5 GPA and "C" or higher in each course; or
  • Associate degree or higher

Admissions Criteria

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Pre-DHG certificate completed with a 2.5 GPA and in accordance with timeframe and repeat policy contained herein
  • Satisfactory interview results

Phase I, the Pre-Dental Hygiene certificate, must be completed with a 2.5 GPA, including “C” or better in all courses, as one of the criteria for advancement to Phase II, the Dental Hygiene major curriculum. Students may not retake any course in Phase I more than once. Students may not retake more than two courses in Phase I. Science and math courses must be completed according to the Health Sciences Departmental course acceptance timeframes.  Other general education courses completed with at least a “C” may be applied indefinitely for course credit. Following the completion of the Pre- Dental Hygiene Certificate course work, the student will complete the graduation clearance form and submit an application for entry into Phase II, the Dental Hygiene Associate Degree program. The student will then be assigned an interview eligibility date. The student’s date of interview eligibility for Phase II is based upon the date of acceptance to and completion of Phase I.

Students in Phase II must receive a “C” or better on all dental hygiene courses and maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Students may not repeat a major course more than once, nor may they progress until that course has been passed.

Students may not repeat more than two Phase II courses during their program matriculation. A student may not be readmitted to the dental hygiene program more than once. If a student is readmitted, they must begin the program as a whole again.

Students are required to purchase and maintain a complete set of dental hygiene and X-ray instruments, clinical instruments, laboratory coats, standard uniforms (including gloves and masks), shoes, name pin and Loupes at an approximate cost of $5,500.

Students are required to pass a comprehensive examination in each clinical dental hygiene course to continue in the program the following semester.  Students must pass a written competency examination prior to the third semester of Phase II. This competency exam tests students’ knowledge in all clinical and scientific subject matter presented during the Pre-Dental Hygiene Certificate and the first year in dental hygiene.  All students will participate in a “Board Review” course prior to taking the Dental Hygiene National Board.

Primary clinical experience is gained in the on-campus dental clinic at the Airport Campus. Students may also rotate through local dental clinics, hospitals, private dental offices and nursing homes in the immediate area for practicum experiences in a variety of situations and age groups.  Students will be required to comply with regulations required in off-campus clinical sites, which might include finger printing, additional background checks and drug screening.

Pre-clinical practice is performed on classmate patients.  Students accepted into Phase II of the Dental Hygiene program will be expected to act as patients for classmates to practice all new skills, including infiltration anesthesia injections. Students who require antibiotics prior to dental procedures will be expected to comply with such self-medication so as to allow equitable classmate learning experiences during pre-clinical sessions. Students anticipating orthodontic procedures should complete their banding phase prior to entry into Phase II or they should delay initiation of the orthodontic procedures until the second year of Phase II.

Students will be required to produce an acceptable background check and a drug screening prior to entering Phase II of the Dental Hygiene Program.  Arrangements will be made by the Allied Dental Education Program.

Students are encouraged to join their student professional organization and to participate in its scheduled activities, including attendance at the annual meeting.  In addition, they are required to participate in scheduled  activities  such as visits to elementary  schools  for dental health education presentations and dental screenings.

Essential Functions

Essential Functions technical standard examples of necessary activities (not all inclusive)
Critical Thinking Critical thinking ability sufficient for clinical judgment. Identify cause-effect relationships in clinical situations; evaluate patient or instrument responses: synthesize data: draw sound conclusions.
Interpersonal Interpersonal abilities sufficient to interact with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural and intellectual backgrounds. Establish rapport with patients and colleagues. Use therapeutic communication (attending, clarifying, coaching, facilitating, and teaching. Function (consult, negotiate, share) as a part of a team.
Communication Ability Communication abilities sufficient for effective interaction with others. in spoken and written English. Explain treatment procedures; initiate health teaching; document and interpret instructions. Listen attentively.
Physical Endurance Remain continuously on task for several hours while standing, sitting, moving, lifting and/or bending.
Must lift 30 lbs.
Manually resuscitate patients in emergency situations or stand/walk for extended periods of time.
Mobility Physical abilities sufficient to move from room to room and maneuver in small spaces; full range of motion; manual and finger dexterity; and hand-eye coordination. Move around in work area and treatment areas.
Motor Skills Gross and fine motor skills sufficient to provide safe patient care and operate equipment. Use equipment and instruments with necessary dexterity.
Hearing Ability Auditory ability sufficient to monitor and assess health needs. Ability to hear alarms, emergency signals, auscultatory sounds and cries for help.
Visual Ability Normal or corrected visual ability sufficient for patient observation and assessment, ability to discriminate between subtle changes in density (black and grey) or a color at low light. Observe patient responses, secretions, and color. Read thermometer, chart, computer screen, digital printouts, labels and gauges.
Tactile Abiity Tactile ability sufficient for physical assessment. Perform palpation, functions of physical examination and/or those related to therapeutic intervention.
Olfactory Ability Olfactory senses (smell) sufficient for maintaining environmental and patient safety. Distinguish smells, which are contributory to assessing and/or maintaining the patient’s health status or environmental safety.
Professional Attitude and Demeanor Ability to present professional appearance and implement measures to maintain one’s own physical and mental health and emotional stability. Work under stressful conditions. Be exposed to communicable diseases and contaminated bodily fluids. React calmly in emergency situations. Demonstrate flexibility. Show concern for others.

Merit Admissions

A merit admission opportunity is available for highly qualified applicants. 

Get the Merit Admissions FAQs.

Get the Merit Admissions Checklist.

The merit application submission deadline for a Fall 2020 clinical start date is February 28, 2020.

New for merit applicants: Two Merit Admissions workshops are scheduled for Dental Hygiene merit applicants. These workshops are not required, but are designed to help prospective merit applicants understand how merit admission works and how to properly complete the Merit Admissions Application. These workshops will be held:

  • Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. in the Airport Student Center, Room 225
  • Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. in the Airport Student Center, Room 225

Please be on time and bring a copy of the 2019 Merit Dental Hygiene Admissions Checklist with you. The meeting will last approximately one hour. Because of the scope of the information covered, it is not appropriate for children to attend.


Request Admissions Info

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