Technical Standards & Essential Functions for the Dental Hygienist

Health Sciences programs establish technical standards and essential functions to insure that students have the abilities required to participate and potentially be successful in all aspects of the respective programs. Dental Hygiene Program students are required to meet the technical standards/functions that follow. Some of the standards/functions may be met with reasonable accommodations. If accommodations are needed, it is the student’s responsibility to comply with the procedures set forth by the MSU Office for Students with Disabilities. If a student is unable to meet all of the outlined standards, he/she may be withdrawn from the program.

The following details categories of essential functions that successful dental hygienists demonstrate.


Physical Qualifications for the Dental Hygienist

Students must be able to perform all functions and tasks required of a dental hygienist.  A person with certain musculoskeletal conditions may have difficulty performing the daily activities required by the profession of dental hygiene.  These include, but are not limited to degenerative conditions or injuries to the neck, back, shoulder, elbow, wrist and/or hands.  Examples:  herniated or bulging disks, chronic rotator cuff symptoms, and carpal tunnel.  It is strongly recommended that individuals with any of these conditions be evaluated by their physician prior to pursuing the dental hygiene degree. 


Motor Function:

Motor functions must be sufficient to permit the student to be able to:

  • Manipulate dental equipment and dental hygiene instruments with eye-hand coordination with both hands.
  • Manipulate dental radiographic equipment unassisted.
  • Use upper body strength to assist patients in emergency situations (perform CPR)
  • Lift 25 pounds (strength to assist patient in transferring into a dental chair from a wheelchair)
  • Sit unassisted for long periods of times.  
  • Demonstrate fine and gross motor skills necessary to provide safe and effective dental hygiene instrumentation
  • Write clearly and neatly with pen or pencil
  • Demonstrate tactile abilities to allow for physical assessment using palpation and exploring and working strokes with dental hygiene instruments.
  • Sustain repetitive push, pull and rotation movements of hands at the wrist


Visual Observation:

Visual acuity must be sufficient and adequate to allow the student to:

  • Differentiate between shades of gray on radiographs to determine quality and identify anatomy.
  • Differentiate between color variations in tissues to distinguish between normal and abnormal.
  • Read control panels, technique charts, and other pertinent materials for patient care and professional practice.
  • Demonstrate adequate depth perception in the instrumentation of tooth structures.

Students must show proof of an eye examination within 6 months prior to the start of the program.


Auditory(Hearing) Observation:

Hearing abilities must be sufficient to allow the student to communicate with and evaluate patients.  The student must be able to:

  • Evaluate stethoscope sounds in the monitoring of blood pressure.
  • Hear normal speaking level sounds and various voice ranges. 
  • Hear auditory alarms and telephones 


Communication Skills:

Communication skills must be sufficient to permit the student to communicate with patients and other professionals.  The student must:  

  • Demonstrate English language communication skills sufficient for interaction with others in verbal and written form (communication is clear and understandable to others).


Critical Thinking Skill

Students must be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills deemed appropriate for the academic level and discipline content. A student must be able to: 

  • Comprehend and integrate knowledge from didactic courses and professional literature into the assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of dental hygiene treatment.
  • Demonstrate long and short term memory


Behavioral and Social Skills:

Student’s behavioral and social skills must be acceptable within the college and clinical settings.  A student must be able to:     

  • Monitor his/her emotions. Manage strong emotions (such as grief and anger) in a professional manner.
  • Perform multiple responsibilities concurrently.
  • Adapt to a changing environment/stress and deal with the unexpected (such as a crisis situation).
  • Provide treatment and services to all patients/clients without discrimination
  • Treat others with respect
  • Works effectively as a team member with dentists, dental staff and other office personnel.


Employment Qualifiers:

Students must be able to obtain a license to practice dental hygiene. Each state has regulations governing the practice of dental hygiene, including licensing requirements.  The following are listed as grounds for refusal to issue a dental hygiene license in the state of Texas (Texas Occupations Code, Title 3, Chapter 263, Sec. 263.001, Grounds for Refusal to Issue License). 

  • presents to the Board fraudulent or false evidence of the person’s qualifications for examination or license;
  • is guilty of any illegality, fraud, or deception during the examination or the process to secure a license;
  • is habitually intoxicated or is addicted to drugs; commits a dishonest or illegal practice in or connected to dentistry or dental hygiene;
  • is convicted of a felony under a federal law of this state;
  • is found to have violated a law of this state relating to the practice of dentistry within the 12 months preceding the date the person filed an application for a license to practice dentistry or dental hygiene

Dentists and Dental Hygienists applying for initial licensure by examination with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners MUST submit their fingerprints for a State and National criminal history background check.

If you answer YES to ANY of the questions listed below you must complete the Application To Request Evaluation of Criminal History on the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Website (Note: You may exclude Class C Misdemeanor traffic violations)

For any criminal offense, including those pending appeal, have you:

( ) Yes ( ) No A. been convicted of a misdemeanor? ( ) Yes ( ) No B. been convicted of a felony?

( ) Yes ( ) No C. pled nolo contendere, no contest, or guilty to a felony or misdemeanor?

( ) Yes ( ) No D. received deferred adjudication for a felony or misdemeanor?

( ) Yes ( ) No E. been placed on community supervision or court-ordered probation, whether or not adjudicated guilty?

( ) Yes ( ) No F. been sentenced to serve jail time or prison time or court-ordered confinement?

( ) Yes ( ) No G. been granted pre-trial diversion?

( ) Yes ( ) No H. been arrested or have any pending criminal charges?

( ) Yes ( ) No I. been cited or charged with any violation of the law?

( ) Yes ( ) No J. been subject of a court-martial; Article 15 violation; or received any form of military judgment, punishment or action?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above you should complete and submit the Evaluation of Criminal History to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners prior to applying to the Dental Hygiene Program to insure that you are eligible for Dental Hygiene Licensure in the State of Texas.

Students must comply with infection control regulations as listed in the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Rules and Regulations, Rule 108.25:

  • A dental health care worker(s) who knows he/she is infected with HIV or HBV and who knows he/she is HbeAg positive shall report his/her status to an expert review panel, pursuant to provisions of THSC, §85.204, et seq, 1991, as amended.                     
  • A dental health care worker who is infected with HIV or HBV and is HbeAg positive shall notify a prospective patient of the dental health care worker’s  seropositive status and obtain the patient’s consent before the patient undergoes an exposure-prone procedure performed by the notifying dental healthcare worker.


It is strongly recommended that individuals with any questions regarding the Employment Qualifiers contact the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners