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Technical Standards for Dental Hygiene Students: Essential Abilities

Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who focus on prevention and treating oral diseases – both to protect teeth and gums, and also to protect patient's total health. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene educational programs in colleges and universities, and must take a written national board examination and a clinical examination before they are licensed to practice in a particular state. In addition to treating patients directly, dental hygienists may also work as educators, researcher, and administrators.
Source: 2008

*The University complies with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Disabilities Act of 1990. Therefore, the University will make reasonable accommodations for participants with disabilities who are otherwise qualified.

Technical Standards for Dental Hygiene and Essential Abilities

This occupation requires one to:

  • Administer oral hygiene care to patients
  • Assess patients’ oral hygiene concerns or issues
  • Maintain health records
  • Educate patients on oral health and disease prevention


  • Review and document patients medical and dental histories
  • Feel and visually examine oral tissues for sores and signs of disease
  • Palpating the head and neck region to detect swelling or tenderness that could indicate presence of oral cancer
  • Examine gums, by using a dental instrument called a probe, to identify periodontal issues and signs of gum disease
  • Remove biofilm, calculus, and stains from teeth and above and below the gumline, using dental instruments
  • Provide clinical services and health education to improve and maintain oral health for patients of all ages
  • Expose and interpret dental radiographs
  • Chart conditions of decay and disease for diagnosis by a dentist
  • Application of caries-preventive agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants
  • Administer local or topical anesthetics or nitrous analgesia for pain management
  • Take impressions for study casts and whitening trays
  • Maintain dental equipment, sharpen, and sterilize instruments
  • Maintain a patient recall system
  • Work in a team environment
  • Life-long learning

Technology and Tools used:

  • Use of computer software and technology
  • Hand instruments used for assessing and cleaning teeth and piezoelectric and magnetostrictive ultrasonic scalers.
  • Digital, traditional dental radiographs including panoramic radiographs and portable x-ray units (not used at FSU)
  • Teeth cleaning devices or accessories – air driven dental polishers; air/water syringes; motor driven dental polishers.
  • Dental lasers (not currently used at FSU) & caries detection aids.

Work Activities

  • Establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • Assisting and caring for others
  • Working with the public
  • Documenting information
  • Critical thinking skills and problem solving
  • Using relevant knowledge
  • Handling and moving objects
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Identifying objects, actions, and events
  • Monitor processes and materials
  • Organizing, planning and prioritizing
  • General physical activities
  • Perform office work

Work Environment

  • Primarily in a dental office
  • Repetitive motions
  • Use hands to handle, control or feel objects, tools or controls
  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - scrubs, safety glasses with side shields, face shields, masks, closed toe shoes, etc.
  • Majority of the time a dental hygienist will sit while performing duties. There is also walking, bending and twisting.


  • Medicine and Dentistry
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Psychology, chemistry, biology
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Production and Processing


  • Proficient in the English Language
  • Active listening
  • Communicate effectively
  • Active Learning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Time Management
  • Critical Thinking
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Problem solving
  • Coordination
  • Writing

Essential Abilities

  • Arm-hand steadiness
  • Finger Dexterity – being able to grasp, manipulate or assemble very small objects and have coordinated movements with fingers.
  • Manual Dexterity – The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand and forearm, or two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Near Vision – The ability to see details at close range.
  • Visual color discrimination – being able to see differences between shades of color and brightness.
  • Problem Sensitivity – The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Control Precision – The ability to adjust the controls of a machine quickly and repeatedly to exact positions.
  • Selective Attention – The ability to concentrate on a task over a period without being distracted.
  • Deductive Reasoning – The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Language Ability

  • Oral Expression/Speech Clarity/Recognition – The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you and to have the ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Be able to read small, printed labels on medications and other pertinent supplies.
  • 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.

Work Styles

  • Dependable
  • Attention to Detail
  • Concern for Others
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Self-Control
  • Stress Tolerance
  • Initiative
  • Achievement/Effort
  • Leadership
  • Persistence
  • Analytical thinking
  • Innovation
  • Adaptability and flexibility

Clinical Assessments

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

Source: O*Net OnLine Summary Report for Dental Hygienists,