Disability Status 

The Dental Hygiene program and the field of dental hygiene are physically and mentally demanding. They require good physical condition and excellent eye-hand coordination. The skills used in the practice of dental hygiene place a demand on the whole body, but particularly the back, neck, upper body muscles, arms and hands, and vision. The repetition of the skills, variety of clients seen, and variety of settings in which one practices require physical and mental stamina. You may consult with your physician and/or a dental hygiene program advisor to determine whether the physical demands of the program may be prohibitive.

The licensing exams in Washington and the National Dental Hygiene Board Exam require a command of the English language.

In addition to the Health Examinations and Vaccinations information located under Program Acceptance below, the prospective student must consider the following when making the decision to pursue a career in the dental hygiene profession.

Standards of Dental Hygiene Conduct

Dental hygienists are responsible, by law, to the people of the State of Washington, for specific standards of dental hygiene conduct:

By law WAC 246-815-160—"The standards of dental hygiene conduct or practice identify minimum responsibilities of the registered dental hygienist licensed in Washington in health care settings as provided in the Dental Hygiene Practice Act, chapter 18.29 RCW, and the Uniform Disciplinary Act, chapter 18.130 RCW. The standards provide consumers with information about quality care and provide the secretary of health (of the department of health), guidelines to evaluate safe and effective care. The dental hygienist assumes the responsibility, public trust and obligation to adhere to the standards of dental hygiene practice". 18.130.010 "Intent. It is the intent of the legislature to strengthen and consolidate disciplinary and licensure procedures for the licensed health and health-related professions by providing a uniform disciplinary act with standardized procedures for the licensure of health care professionals and the enforcement of laws the purpose of which is to assure the public of the adequacy of professional competence and conduct in the healing arts."

Occupational Hazards

Occupational hazards for the field of dental hygiene may include, but are not limited to: exposure to infectious diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis, exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances, accidental injury, neuromuscular problems, exposure to blood borne pathogens, exposure to radiation and allergic reactions to latex, anesthetic agents, or other chemical agents. Students enrolled in the dental hygiene program are provided with in-depth instructions on OSHA and WISHA safety and infection control policies employed in the dental hygiene program and are required to sign acknowledgement and understanding agreements related to occupation hazards including a “Human Subject Consent, an “Oath of Confidentiality”, and the general “Program Agreement”.

Latex Allergy

Over the past few years, the incidence of latex allergy has increased steadily. Latex is an integral part of dentistry; although latex free gloves are used in clinic, rubber dams, suction tubes, etc. may contain latex. Individuals with a history of some prior allergic condition, such as hay fever, environmental allergies, and drug allergies, may be at risk for latex hypersensitivity. Individuals with a documented latex allergy must submit clearance from a physician prior to participation in pre-clinical or clinical activities.

Essential Functions for Admission, Provision and Graduation 

The Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits the Dental Hygiene program at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. A Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree signifies that the holder is prepared for entry into the profession of Dental Hygiene. Dental Hygiene is an intellectually, physically, and psychologically demanding profession. It is during the rigorous two-year curriculum that students begin to develop the qualities needed to practice dental hygiene. Students acquire the foundational knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors needed throughout a dental hygienists’ professional career. Those abilities necessary to practice in as safe, competent, and professional manner are reflected in the essential functions outlined below.

Candidates for a dental hygiene degree must be able to meet these minimum standards, with or without reasonable accommodation, for successful completion of degree requirements.

The Department of Dental Hygiene has adopted the following essential functions for admission, promotion and graduation for its entry-level professional program.

Visual Acuity

  • Must be able to read small printed labels on medications and other pertinent supplies.
  • Must be able to read small numbers on instruments.
  • Must be able to determine detail in small areas of the mouth varying from less than 5mm to several cm.
  • Must possess adequate depth perception to evaluate size, shape and texture in small areas with minimal contrast.
  • Must be able to determine very slight variations in color.

Speaking Ability

  • Verbal expression must be clear and distinct enough to enunciate dental terminology while wearing a face mask.
  • Must be able to express thoughts clearly.

Motor Skills

  • Must have sufficient motor function to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and treatment to patients including: the ability to directly operate foot controls using fine movements; the ability to operate hand and mechanical dental hygiene instruments around the teeth and structures in the oral cavity; the ability to perform palpation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers and procedures; the ability to transfer and position disabled patients and to physically restrain patients who lack motor control; and the ability to position and reposition self around patient and chair in a sitting or standing position.
  • Must have coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and integrated use of the senses of touch and vision to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and treatment to patients as detailed above.

Adaptive Ability

  • Must be able to successfully complete required tasks/functions under stressful conditions.
  • Must be able to perform with minimal supervision.
  • Must be able to interact appropriately with all members of the dental team, patients, and patient representatives (e.g. parents, guardians, family members, interpreters, etc.).
  • Must be able to function in a structured environment with time constraints.

Language Ability

  • Must be able to read, write, speak, record and report in English.
  • Must be able to comprehend written and oral directions given in English and the ability to carry them out.
  • Must be able to have conversations in English on the telephone and one-on-one.


  • Must be able to observe demonstrations in lecture, clinical and laboratory settings.
  • Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing and somatic sensations.


  • Must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients, and patient representatives (e.g. parents, guardians, family members, interpreters, etc.), as well as perceive nonverbal communications.
  • Must also be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with other members of the dental team and health care community to convey information essential for safe and effective care.
  • Communication includes: speech, language, reading, writing and computer literacy.

Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

  • Must possess the ability to effectively solve problems.
  • Must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize information in a timely fashion. For example, the student must be able to synthesize knowledge and integrate the relevant aspects of a patient’s history and examination findings to develop an effective treatment plan.
  • Must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand spatial relationships of anatomical structures.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

  • Must possess the psychological ability required for the full utilization of their intellectual abilities to include the exercise of good judgment; the prompt completion of all responsibilities inherent to diagnosis and care of clients; the ability to demonstrate attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others; interest, motivation, and development of mature, sensitive, empathetic, and effective relationships with patients; the ability to give, receive, and positively respond to constructive feedback; the ability to work within the context of a group or a team of peers; and the ability to demonstrate intrapersonal coping skills.
  • Must maintain a professional appearance and hygiene.
  • Must have the ability to be timely and dependable.
  • Must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under stress.
  • Must be able to adapt to a changing environment, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients.
  • Must demonstrate professionally ethical behavior, including the ability to comply with rules, regulations, professional Code of Ethics and policies of the College and Clinical Affiliates.

Curriculum Requirements

  • Must be able to successfully complete, with or without reasonable accommodation, all required components of the curriculum.

Tests and Evaluations

  • Must be able to successfully complete, with or without reasonable accommodation, both written and practical periodic examinations which are employed by the Dental Hygiene Program as an essential component of the curriculum to evaluate competence.
  • Must demonstrate successful completion of these examinations as a condition for continued progress through the curriculum.

Clinical Assessments

  • Must be able to successfully demonstrate, with or without reasonable accommodation, competence of clinical skills in both laboratory and clinical settings.

Pierce College Disability Policy

Students with disabilities who believe they may need academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, or services to fully participate in course activities or meet course requirements are encouraged to register with the Access and Disability Services (ADS) Office at 253-964-6526 or confidential FAX at 253-964- 6449 for the Pierce College Lakewood campus. Students may also email the ADS Office. Students requesting accommodations must obtain the Approved Quarterly Academic Adjustments, Auxiliary Aids or Services form provided by ADS.

It is the student's responsibility to determine whether licensing exams allow for disability accommodations.