Pierce College Dental Hygiene students

Is Dental Hygiene for Me?

Make an Informed Decision

If you are considering studying dental hygiene, we encourage you to learn as much as possible about the profession. In addition to reviewing the information provided here, we recommend that you observe and speak with a dental hygiene advisor and a Registered (Licensed) Dental Hygienist (RDH). Ask questions about the benefits of the profession, why they chose this career, skills needed for success, work ethic, etc.

We also offer free information sessions throughout the year.

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

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, Registered Dental Hygienists are oral health practitioners, educators, researchers, etc. 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, dental hygienists in Washington State have an expanded practice act allowing them to perform select restorative procedures — the placing and finishing of amalgam and composite fillings. The Program prepares you for the full scope of dental hygiene practice in WA State. Please refer to the Practice Act, Chapter 18.29 RCW.

Characteristics of a Good Dental Hygienist

  • Behaves ethically, with integrity, intellectual ability, physical competency, and personal responsibility.
  • Takes responsibility for one's own learning and is accountable for one's own actions.
  • Communicates effectively (reading, writing and verbally/non-verbally).
  • Enjoys and demonstrates success in various fine motor skills.
  • Demonstrates sufficient emotional, mental, and physical stamina to withstand the stresses and uncertainties that characterize the practice of dental hygiene.
  • Is inquisitive/intrigued about the oral environment (mouth, teeth, tissue, and its relationship to the whole body).
  • Enjoys interacting with people and shows compassion and caring, placing the patient's welfare first.
  • Can disregard or at least tolerate oral mouth odors and blood, food debris, etc., in the mouth.
  • Respects one’s self and others' views and rights.
  • Is organized and detailed.

Dental hygienists are responsible, by law WAC 246-815-160, to the people of the State of Washington, for specific standards of dental hygiene conduct.

Essential Functions for Admissions Provision and Graduation From the BASDH Program at Pierce College

Vaccinations/Immunizations/TB Testing

The BASDH entry-level program follows the guidelines and recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Once accepted to the program, you will submit this information to the Castle Branch application website prior to beginning the program in July.

Medical/Physical/Visual/Dental Examinations

You will be required to have your healthcare providers complete an assessment of your ability to participate in the BASDH program. This includes a physical examination, a visual examination, and a dental examination. More details will be provided once you have accepted an offer to the program.

The examinations are necessary for proof that you are able to meet the Essential Functions and Admission Provisions for the program.

Criminal Background Policy (At Time of Application)

All program applicants must submit to a criminal background check at the time of application. Applicants with felony convictions are not eligible to participate in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (BASDH) program courses at Pierce College. Applicants with felony convictions will have their application invalidated. See the Washington Criminal Code for a list of crimes considered felonies.

Should the college/program deem you a valid applicant, despite non-felony convictions, and offer you an admission into the BASDH program, it is the your FULL responsibility to determine your eligibility for dental hygiene licensure through the Department of Licensing before commencing a course of study in Dental Hygiene, and if able, clear a criminal history. Please contact the Washington State Department of Health for further information at 360-236-4700.

Department of Licensing Contact Information

Identification of Positive Criminal History—Washington State Criminal History Repository Department of Health—Licensing Application. DOH conducts criminal background check on every applicant for licensure (DH Program, dentistry, etc.)

  • Applicants must answer the DOH Information Data Sheet with integrity and honesty. Future licensure is at great risk if false information is submitted.
  • With positive criminal history, the applicant must include all reports and court documents along with detailed and complete explanations, with the application for Washington State Licensure.
  • Positive criminal history cases are submitted to a DOH review panel, where decisions regarding licensure (and possible stipulations) are determined.
  • Each case identifying positive criminal history is managed as an individual case. License stipulations may be obligatory if patient harm is potential.
  • Applicants with positive criminal history should attempt to get the violation records expunged (after a specified time, some records may be expunged).