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Dental Hygiene Care Competencies

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center strives to create a learning environment in which each dental hygiene graduate is instilled with the knowledge, skills and values to provide dental hygiene care to patients, along with a sense of responsibility to self, the community and the profession.

Competence is an acceptable, measurable defined level of special skills and knowledge that is derived from education, clinical experience, role modeling and overall socialization. These competencies describe the abilities expected as an entry level dental hygienist.

The curriculum for dental hygiene students provides a hierarchical progression of knowledge and skills as demonstrated by competencies that reflect the interdependence of biological, behavioral and clinical sciences.

The competencies set forth in this document are the abilities required by the new dental hygiene graduate to begin dental hygiene practice. These competencies must be supported by a working knowledge of basic biomedical and clinical sciences, by cognitive and psychomotor skills and by professional and ethical values. 

1. Graduates must be competent in providing dental hygiene care for the child, adolescent, adult, geriatric and medically compromised patient.

2. Graduates must be competent in providing the dental hygiene process of care which includes:

Assessment: The systematic collection and analysis of the following data to identify patient needs and oral health problems.

  • Medical and dental histories
  • Vital signs
  • Extra/intra-oral examinations
  • Periodontal and dental examination
  • Radiographs
  • Indices
  • Risk assessments (i.e., tobacco, systemic, caries)

Planning: The establishment of realistic goals and treatment strategies to facilitate optimal oral health.

  • Dental hygiene diagnosis
  • Dental hygiene treatment plan
  • Informed consent
  • Dental hygiene case presentation

Implementation: Provision of treatment as identified in the assessment and planning phase.

  • Infection control
  • Periodontal debridement and scaling
  • Pain management
  • Application of chemotherapeutic agents
  • Fluoride therapy
  • Application of pit and fissure sealants
  • Coronal polishing
  • Care of oral prostheses
  • Care and maintenance of restorations
  • Health education and preventive counseling
  • Nutritional counseling

Evaluation: Measurement of the extent to which goals identified in the treatment plan were achieved.

  • Indices
  • Reevaluation of oral and periodontal health status
  • Subsequent treatment needs
  • Continuing care (recall)
  • Referral
  • Patient satisfaction

3. Graduates must be competent in providing dental hygiene care for all types of classifications of periodontal disease including patients who exhibit moderate to severe periodontal disease.

4. Graduates must be competent in interpersonal and communication skills to effectively interact with diverse population groups.

5. Graduates must be competent in assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating community-based oral health programs including health promotion and disease prevention activities.

6. Graduates must be competent in providing appropriate life support measures for medical emergencies that may be encountered in dental hygiene practice.

7. Graduates must be competent in applying ethical, legal and regulatory concepts to the provision and/or support of oral health care services.

8. Graduates must be competent in the application of self-assessment skills to prepare them for life-long learning.

9. Graduates must be competent in the evaluation of current scientific literature.

10. Graduates must be competent in problem solving strategies related to comprehensive patient care and management of patients.

May 26, 2022