Pierce College Dental Hygiene students

Making an Informed Choice

Students who are considering a course of study in dental hygiene are encouraged to review the Traits/Behaviors of a Successful Dental Hygienist below, and be sure to read the informed applicant information.

We also recommend observing a Registered (Licensed) Dental Hygienist (RDH). Ask the RDH questions about the benefits of the profession, why they chose this career, skills needed for success, work ethic, etc.

The Profession of Dental Hygiene

A dental hygienist is a licensed health professional dedicated to the prevention and treatment of oral diseases who has completed a professional course of study and passed all local, state, and national examinations.

In the State of Washington, RDH’s are oral health educators and clinicians who perform all aspects of treating and preventing gingival and periodontal diseases (gum disease), including the administration of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation.

Additionally, Washington State has an expanded practice act for dental hygienists which allow RDH’s to perform some restorative procedures, the placing and finishing of amalgam, and composite fillings.

The PCDH Program prepares you for the full scope of practice in the WA State, Practice Act, Chapter 18.29 RCW.

Dental Hygienists benefit from:

  • Job security: Demand is high for clinicians everywhere, particularly in rural areas.
  • Flexibility: Work part-time, full-time, partial days, etc. Schedules can be arranged to clinician’s preference.
  • Variety: Diversity in locations, patients, technology, and the evolving science of dental hygiene.

Characteristics of a Dental Hygienist

  • Be inquisitive/intrigued about the oral environment (mouth, teeth, tissue, and its relationship to the whole body).
  • Enjoy interacting with people and have the ability to show compassion and caring, and to place the patient's welfare first.
  • Have sufficient emotional, mental, and physical stamina to withstand the stresses and uncertainties that characterize the practice of dental hygiene.
  • Have an ability to disregard or at least tolerate oral mouth odors and blood, food debris, etc., in the mouth.
  • Be respectful of self and others' views and rights.
  • Be organized and detailed.
  • Enjoy fine motor tasks.
  • Be able to communicate effectively (reading, writing and verbally/non-verbally).
  • Be responsible for one's own learning and accountable for one's own actions.
  • Be ethical and act with integrity, intellectual ability, physical competency, and personal responsibility.

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