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Essential Functions

Students in the dental hygiene program must be willing to work as a team player. Since they use dental instruments within the patient's mouth they must also have good manual dexterity. There is little room for error when working in this confined area. The department has identified what it believes to be the essential skills critical to the safe and reasonable practice of dental hygiene care. A candidate applying to the Dental Hygiene Program at SUNY Canton must possess essential skills and the ability to provide the functions of a licensed dental hygienist as defined by the regulations and laws of the NYS Dental Practice Act and the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Candidates must demonstrate safe practice either with or without reasonable accommodations.

Minimum Qualifications With or Without Accommodations:

Physical Requirements:

  1. The student must be able to use the arm, wrist, hands, neck, back and shoulders to safely operate switches, knobs and levers on the dental chair and accessory equipment in both the clinical and laboratory settings.
  2. The student must have the upper body strength to move and position the x-ray equipment around the patient's head.
  3. The student must display good manual dexterity and motor coordination in the fingers to grasp small instruments and perform proper instrumentation techniques.
  4. The student must be able to utilize two hands simultaneously to perform palpations during a cancer screening exam and to reflect light with a mirror during instrumentation procedures.
  5. The student must be physically capable of initiating emergency procedures in a precise, quick, and appropriate manner. During emergency situations the student may be required to monitor vital signs, administer supplemental oxygen, initiate CPR, administer first aid, or apply pressure to stop a bleeding wound.

Visual Acuity (aided or unaided):

  1. Requires the ability to identify the working ends of various dental instruments and read the millimeter markings on a periodontal probe when measuring pocket depths at a distance of two feet.
  2. Requires the ability to differentiate various shades of colors in a limited environment and space in the oral cavity and be able to distinguish various degrees of black to white on radiograph

Auditory (aided or unaided):

  1. Requires the ability to communicate with patients or other health care professionals through the telephone and discern blood pressure sounds through a stethoscope.

Communication Skills:

  1. The student must be capable of effective oral communication and interaction with a diversified group of patients, faculty, fellow students, and other dental professional within the community. This interaction is important when conducting a history interview when giving commands during patient care and when providing instructions during patient education in both the clinical setting on campus and to special groups within the community.
  2. The student must be capable of verbalizing dental findings to the patient and faculty.
  3. The student must display good communication skills and cultural sensitivity when responding to verbal and non-verbal cues from the patient, the instructors and their peers.
  4. The student must be capable of organizing thoughts and presenting ideas in written assignments. The student also has an ethical obligation to document the patient's clinical record in a clear, precise, and legible manner with properly spelled words so other professionals can understand the entries at follow-up or recall appointments.

Reading Comprehension:

  1. The student must be capable of reading, analyzing and comprehending material in grade 14 level textbooks and professional journals so he /she can apply didactic knowledge effectively in the clinical setting and exercise good judgment when delivering dental hygiene care chairside.
  2. The student must be able to independently interpret and follow written directions and processes when learning and developing dental hygiene skills.

Data Conception and Reasoning Development:

  1. Requires a basic understanding of math skills and geometric angles. This is necessary when timing various vital signs, when calculating plaque indices, when developing a spatial relationship between the instruments and the teeth intraorally, when sharpening instruments, and when placing radiographs intraorally.
  2. Requires the ability to gather, classify, and interpret information. When providing care in the clinic, the student must be capable of evaluating a medical/dental history, identifying oral findings intraorally and extraorally, and analyzing clinical findings to formulate a dental hygiene diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan for the patient.
  3. Requires ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously and anticipate treatment needs.
  4. Requires organizational skills and independent thinking skills to efficiently manage time.

Computer Literacy:

  1. Requires basic computer skills to research the most current information to evaluate products and make evidence based decisions, to enter information into the patient database, and to complete computerized charting activities.


Dental Hygiene
Program Director
Pamela Quinn