Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene, B.S. DegreeB.S.
Accelerated Dental Hygiene, B.S./M.SDegreeB.S./M.S.


As licensed oral health care professionals and educators, dental hygienists, as members of the dental team, often work in collaboration with other health care providers. Dental hygienists integrate knowledge of biomedical, dental, clinical, and social sciences to assist individuals and groups in achieving and maintaining optimum oral health. The dental hygienist provides preventive services, preliminary examinations, radiographs, sealants, nonsurgical periodontal therapy, fluoride treatments, and patient education. Depending upon individual state laws, the role of the hygienist has expanded to include procedures that are beyond this traditional scope of responsibility, such as the administration of local anesthesia, nitrous oxide analgesia, and restorative therapy. As a specialist, the dental hygienist is an integral co-therapist in helping consumers prevent oral disease, arrest existing oral disease, and maintain oral health.

Philosophy, Mission, and Goals

Department Philosophy

The fundamental philosophy of the Idaho State University Department of Dental Hygiene is threefold. First, its members are committed to excellence in all academic endeavors. As a component of the university’s primary emphasis area, the program serves statewide, regional, national, and international needs by providing access to quality education in the discipline. Second, the program is progressive in instituting ongoing changes to prepare for the future of dental hygiene. The program also places priority on basing these changes on continual outcome assessments while maintaining essential traditional values. Third, we strive to meet the oral health needs of the public and workforce demands.

Teaching Philosophy 

The teaching philosophy of the dental hygiene faculty provides the framework for creating a stimulating, challenging, and supportive environment to promote intellectual curiosity, professionalism, and life-long learning. The faculty are committed to providing students with clear definitions of expectations, appropriate teaching and learning strategies, regular assessment of student performance, and sufficient structure to support learning and creativity.

Clinical teaching develops competence while focusing on person-centered care in a variety of settings. Educational experiences provide opportunities for students to explore dental hygiene roles and responsibilities with individuals or groups representing diverse populations as a part of interprofessional collaborative care.

An atmosphere of mutual trust and respect provides the foundation for continual development of competence, confidence, and professional values. The dental hygiene faculty strive to provide a learner-centered approach focusing on critical thinking and problem solving. Instructional strategies are used involving active learning, self-assessment, and reflection.


To provide global leadership and scholarship in educating dental hygienists who will improve the quality of health for diverse populations by advancing the delivery systems and science of dental hygiene through interprofessional collaboration while adhering to professional standards.


To be the premier global dental hygiene center of education, practice, leadership, and scholarship.

Department Goals

Pursuant to our broad philosophy and mission statement, the Department of Dental Hygiene seeks to positively impact the education of its students and the delivery of dental hygiene services to the public by fulfilling interrelated program goals.

  • Goal 1: Provide progressive education to prepare professionals for the changing needs of a global society.
  • Goal 2: Promote the identity of the department and profession through leadership and scholarship.
  • Goal 3: Expand oral health care through interprofessional and community partnerships.
  • Goal 4: Enhance resources to support the department mission, vision, and goals.

Baccalaureate Program Description

The Department of Dental Hygiene awards a Bachelor of Science degree. Students apply to the professional curriculum after completing prerequisite courses in science and general education. The professional program is two years in length. Prerequisites can be completed at the institution of the student’s choice. The Department of Dental Hygiene has transfer information posted on its website at:

The program is designed to foster student growth, promote development of critical and ethical judgment, and encourage life-long learning. The curriculum includes didactic, laboratory, and clinical instruction sufficient to graduate competent clinicians who are capable of practicing contemporary dental hygiene procedures. Students are educated to clinical competency in both traditional and advanced procedures, with emphasis placed on preventive, therapeutic, and nonsurgical services essential for providing total patient care to the public. As a result, graduates possess an increased understanding of dentistry and dental hygiene, expanded capabilities as members of the oral health team, and greater career mobility. Graduates of the Idaho State University Dental Hygiene program also are prepared to pursue graduate studies in dental hygiene or related areas. The Dental Hygiene program is fully accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Program Level Outcomes and Professional Competencies

Program Competency #1:  Professional and Ethical BehaviorThe dental hygiene graduate must demonstrate professional behaviors that are consistent with dental hygiene Standards of Care, legal regulations, and the Core Values of the ADHA Code of Ethics.

  • Supporting Behavior 1.1:  Follow laws and regulations for the provision of oral health care services.
  • Supporting Behavior 1.2:  Utilize effective written and verbal communication skills during interactions with clients, colleagues, and other professionals
  • Supporting Behavior 1.3:  Utilize effective problem solving strategies related to comprehensive client care and ethical situations including those situations related to research and practice management.
  • Supporting Behavior 1.4:  Conduct professional activities in accordance with the Core Values of the ADHA Code of Ethics and Standards of Care.
  • Supporting Behavior 1.5:  Assume responsibility for recording comprehensive and concise documentation of all integrated aspects of care.
  • Supporting Behavior 1.6: Investigate evidence-based scientific literature and apply ethical and legal principles when engaged in professional activities.

Program Competency #2:  Professional Development.  The dental hygiene graduate must acquire and synthesize information to continue life-long learning in the professional discipline.

  • Supporting Behavior 2.1:  Assume responsibility for professional development through self-assessment and critical thinking skills.
  • Supporting Behavior 2.2:  Access and critically evaluate scientific literature to make evidence-based decisions that improve the quality of care to clients and communities.

Program Competency #3:  Professional Commitment.  The dental hygiene graduate must strengthen commitment to the profession by advancing and promoting its values and enhancing oral health through interprofessional collaborations.

  • Supporting Behavior 3.1:  Promote the profession during interprofessional collaborative interactions.
  • Supporting Behavior 3.2:  Engage in interprofessional activities to disseminate information to advance oral health knowledge of other health care professionals.

Program Competency #4:  Client Population.  The dental hygiene graduate must be competent in providing dental hygiene care for members of diverse populations.

  • Supporting Behavior 4.1:  Provide quality, safe, and comfortable dental hygiene care for the child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric client.
  • Supporting Behavior 4.2:  Provide quality, safe and comfortable dental hygiene care for clients with special needs and those from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Program Competency #5:  Assessment.  The dental hygiene graduate must systematically collect, analyze, and record conditions of systemic, oral, and psychosocial health of various client populations.

  • Supporting Behavior 5.1:  Assess client concerns, goals, values, needs, and preferences to guide person-centered care.
  • Supporting Behavior 5.2:  Accurately collect, record, and interpret a medical/ dental history and vital signs recognizing conditions that require consultation, referral, special precautions, or consideration prior to or during dental hygiene care.
  • Supporting Behavior 5.3:  Perform an extraoral and intraoral examination of all the hard and soft tissue including the periodontium and teeth; accurately record and interpret the pathological and non-pathological findings; and initiate monitoring or referral procedures based on individual client needs.
  • Supporting Behavior 5.4:  Analyze the client’s individual conditions to determine the need for radiographs, and safely expose diagnostic quality radiographs.
  • Supporting Behavior 5.5: Interpret radiographic images and correlate with clinical documented conditions.
  • Supporting Behavior 5.6:  Recognize risk factors and implement interventions for the prevention and control of disease.

Program Competency #6:  Dental Hygiene Diagnosis.  The dental hygiene graduate must use critical thinking and problem-solving to determine the client’s dental hygiene needs based on all available assessment data.

  • Supporting Behavior 6.1:  Use critical decision making skills to analyze and interpret the assessment data to formulate an accurate dental hygiene diagnosis.

Program Competency #7:  Planning.  The dental hygiene graduate must formulate a comprehensive, client-centered care plan based on assessment information, dental hygiene diagnosis, and current scientific evidence.

  • Supporting Behavior 7.1:  Design a comprehensive, individualized dental hygiene care plan collaboratively with the client and engage the person in the decision- making process for preventing and treating oral diseases.
  • Supporting Behavior 7.2:  Provide a dental hygiene case presentation which includes the dental hygiene diagnosis and obtain informed consent from the client using effective interpersonal and communication skills.

Program Competency #8:  ImplementationThe dental hygiene graduate must provide individualized care that encompasses educational, preventive, and therapeutic services to achieve and maintain oral health.

  • Supporting Behavior 8.1:  Educate clients on disease theories and risk factors contributing to caries, periodontal disease, and oral and systemic health conditions; and preventive and therapeutic interventions to address the client’s individual needs.
  • Supporting Behavior 8.2:  Provide comprehensive, safe, and comfortable care for clients through the use of appropriate referrals, client management strategies, pain control measures, medical emergency management, and life support measures.
  • Supporting Behavior 8.3:  For various stages of periodontal disease including moderate to severe stages of periodontitis, apply basic and advanced principles of debridement, scaling and root planing to obtain the appropriate clinical endpoint without causing trauma to hard or soft tissue.
  • Supporting Behavior 8.4:  Provide supportive and preventive dental hygiene services that can be legally performed in any state using efficient time management (e.g., selective polishing, amalgam polishing, sealants, margination, impressions study models, fluoride and whitening trays, localized therapeutic delivery, STC, etc.).
  • Supporting Behavior 8.5:  Deliver quality restorative oral health care (placing and finishing amalgam and composite restorations, etc.); to promote and maintain oral health.
  • Supporting Behavior 8.6:  Adhere to infection control standards following the CDC, OSHA, and OSAP guidelines and departmental policies and protocols to prevent the transmission of infectious disease to others.

Program Competency #9:  Evaluation and Maintenance. The dental hygiene graduate must evaluate the effectiveness of implemented educational, preventive, therapeutic, and restorative services and make modifications as needed.

  • Supporting Behavior 9.1:  Compare client’s and clinician’s initial goals to outcomes following treatment
  • Supporting Behavior 9.2: Evaluate the effectiveness of dental hygiene care and the client’s self-care based on clinical parameters, client satisfaction, and client self-assessment; and reinforce referrals as necessary.
  • Supporting Behavior 9.3:  Critically assess treatment outcomes, dental hygiene diagnosis, and patient behaviors to determine prognosis, which establishes the continuing care intervals for periodontal supportive therapy.

Program Competency #10:  Community Involvement.  The dental hygiene graduate must assume responsibility for health promotion and disease prevention activities in the community and collaborate with other health care professionals, organizations, or governmental agencies concerning oral health care services.

  • Supporting Behavior 10.1:  Assess and plan oral health programs to diverse populations or those with limited access to care in a variety of community settings.
  • Supporting Behavior 10.2:  Implement and evaluate outcomes of oral health programs in community settings.
  • Supporting Behavior 10.3:  Present health promotion and disease prevention information using appropriate and effective teaching strategies in in oral health programs or community rotations.
  • Supporting Behavior 10.4:  Provide screenings, education, preventive agents, and referrals for diverse populations in a variety of community settings.

Employment Opportunities

Upon completion of the dental hygiene curriculum, graduates are qualified to take the Dental Hygiene National Board Examination and regional and state licensure exams. Graduates are eligible for positions in private dental offices, public health programs, school health programs, dental hygiene education, and research. In addition, the Dental Hygiene program provides instruction and experience in advanced procedures to broaden capabilities for clinical practice.

Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

The graduate program is designed for licensed dental hygienists with baccalaureate degrees. Graduates are prepared for more complex roles in the discipline such as dental hygiene educators, researchers, and advanced rural and community oral health practitioners. The program provides an online graduate curriculum with minimal on-campus visitations required. For more information, please see the Dental Hygiene page in the Graduate Catalog.

Accelerated B.S. to M.S.D.H. Degree

B.S. degree-seeking students enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program at Idaho State University are eligible to apply to the B.S.-M.S. Accelerated Track option during their senior year and complete 6 credits of graduate coursework. Contact the department for more details.

Transfer Advising

Transcripts will be evaluated by the ISU Office of the Registrar to determine courses fulfilling the general education requirements for B.S. degree requirements. Transfer students who have met the Idaho State Board of Education core subject requirements have fulfilled General Education requirements; however, MATH 1153 is a prerequisite to DENT 4401 Research Methods. Students who earned a baccalaureate degree have fulfilled the General Education requirements.

Transcripts will be evaluated by Dental Hygiene Transfer Coordinator to determine courses meeting the dental hygiene entry-level requirements. An individualized program of study will be developed in collaboration with the transfer coordinator and approved before beginning coursework.

For more information on transfer credit limits, please review the university degree requirement page at /undergraduate/degreerequirements/.

Transfer students with an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts and Sciences degree as the entry-level dental hygiene degree from a U.S. academic regionally accredited institution have completed ALL of the General Education requirements; however, MATH 1153 is a prerequisite to DENT 4401 Research Methods.

Transfer students with an Associate of Applied Science degree as the entry-level dental hygiene degree from a U.S. academic regionally accredited institution AND who have met the Idaho State Board core subject requirements have fulfilled the B.S. degree General Education requirements; however, MATH 1153 is a prerequisite to DENT 4401 Research Methods.

Transfer students with an Associate of Applied Science degree as the entry-level dental hygiene degree from a U.S. academic regionally accredited institution must complete any General Education Objectives not already completed. See the General Education Requirements in the Academic Information section of this catalog.

Credits awarded for an Associate of Applied Science degree as the entry-level dental hygiene degree granted by a U.S. academic institution not accredited by a regional accrediting agency cannot be applied to a B.S. degree at Idaho State University.

DENT Faculty

DENT Courses