Skip to main content

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists clean teeth and provide other preventive dental care, as well as teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene. Hygienists examine patients' teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. They remove calculus, stains, and plaque from teeth; take and develop dental x rays, and apply cavity preventive agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants. In some States, hygienists administer local anesthetics and anesthetic gas; place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings; remove sutures; and smooth and polish metal restorations. Dental hygienists also help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health, inform patients how to select toothbrushes, and show patients how to brush and floss their teeth. Dental hygienists use hand and rotary instruments, lasers, and ultrasonics to clean teeth; x-ray machines to take dental pictures; syringes with needles to administer local anesthetics, and models of teeth to explain oral hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions

What courses do I need to take If I want to become a dental hygenist?

The program involves two years of work at Mississippi College (a minimum of 63 academic semester hours) and two years at the University Medical Center in Jackson. Upon successful completion of the total four years, a Bachelor of Science degree will be awarded from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Admission to the Medical Center is competitive.

The courses to be taken at Mississippi College are:

Class Name Requirements Hours
Biology I with Lab BIO 110/111
General Chemistry with Lab  CHE 141 and 142 8
Anatomy and Physiology with Lab* BIO 203 and 204 8
Microbiology with lab BIO 251 4
College Algebra MAT 111 3
Fine Arts  ART 125, MUS 125, THE 125 3
General Psychology  PSY 201 3
Adolescent, Educational, Child, Developmental, OR Abnormal Psychology  PSY 302, PSY 304, PSY 305, PSY 314, OR PSY 423 3
Intro to Sociology  SOC 205 3
Speech COM 304 3
Humanities   6
Medical Terminology    3
English Composition I and II  ENG 101 and 102 6
Nutritution KIN 211 3
*One course in anatomy and one course in physiology or anatomy and physiolgy combined for two courses    
Total  Hours    130 

What are the requirements to get into the program?

In addition to the admission standards of the institution and the general admission requirements of the School of Dentistry, candidates seeking admission to Dental Hygiene's entry-level traditional program must:

  • Have completed a minimum of 60 semester hours of academic credit (exclusive of physical education, military science, dogmatic religion and vocational courses) from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning;
  • Have a minimum overall cumulative grade point average of 2.50 on 4.00 scale;
  • Have completed 8 hours observation of a licensed or registered dental hygienist in two separate clinical environments;
  • Complete an interview and submit a resume;
  • Submit ACT scores;
  • Have completed 12 hours of the science prerequisite courses and 24 of the non-science courses prior to the Feb. 1 application deadline to the program;
  • Have successfully completed (a grade of C or better) the following minimum prerequisite number of required courses.

When do I apply?

The application window is July 1 – February 1 preceding the fall term of acceptance.

What kind of courses will I take my junior and senior year?

If you enroll in the Dental Hygiene program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center you will take the following courses:

Junior Year

Fall Semester:

  • Patient Care Services
  • Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office
  • Dental Morphology and Occlusion
  • Oral Health Education
  • Radiology I
  • Dental Hygiene Theory
  • Head and Neck Anatomy
  • Survey of Health Care Delivery

Spring Semester:

  • Dental Materials
  • Oral Histology and Embryology
  • Patient Care Theory I
  • Patient Care I
  • Radiology II
  • Periodontics I
  • General Pathology
  • Oral Microbiology

Senior Year

Fall Semester:

  • Research Issues and Trends
  • Patient Care II
  • Biochemistry of Nutrition
  • Oral Pathology
  • Patient Care Theory II
  • Periodontics II
  • Pharmacology
  • Research Design and Statistics

Spring Semester:

  • Research Issues and Trends II
  • Practice Administration
  • Community Dental Health
  • Patient Care Theory III
  • Patient Care III

Is there a licensure exam?

Yes, upon completion of the program you will take a state and national exam in order to become a licensed dental hygienist.

How much does a dental hygienist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay of dental hygienists was $70,210 in 2012.

Important Links