FAQs for Dental Hygiene Students

What does a dental hygienist do?

The tasks performed by a dental hygienist are varied. Here are a few of the things a dental hygienist does. Performs patient screening procedures

  • Takes and develop x-rays
  • Records the presence of diseases and abnormalities
  • Removes hard and soft deposits from the teeth
  • Applies preventive materials to the teeth (sealants and fluoride)
  • Teaches patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies
  • Counsels patients about good nutrition
  • Performs office management activities


What is the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant?

While there are some functions that both the dental hygienist and dental assistant perform, the dental hygienist primarily works independently to provide oral hygiene care to patients. Basically, the hygienist “cleans teeth” by removing hard and soft deposits. Dental assistants assist the dentist in a variety of treatment procedures and help provide patient care in general dentistry and the dental specialties.

Do I have to go to school to be a dental hygienist?

Yes. North Carolina law requires that a hygienist has a minimum of a two-year degree in dental hygiene and pass a national and state board exam. Currently there is only one state (Alabama) that does not require formal education for dental hygienists.

How much do dental hygienists get paid?

Pay varies greatly depending upon location and office. The average starting salary for dental hygienists in the Jacksonville area is $48,900 per year.

How long is the dental hygiene program?

The dental hygiene program is two academic years in length. Students begin in the fall semester – usually around mid-August. The first year consists of two sixteen week semesters plus one five week summer session. There is a seven week break between first year and second year. Dental hygiene students complete requirements for graduation at the end of the spring semester of their second year.

Do I HAVE to go to summer school?

Yes. Dental hygiene courses are only offered once each year so it is imperative that you take and complete each course in the semester it is offered.

Is it possible to attend the dental hygiene program on a part-time basis?

No. All dental hygiene students are full-time students and must take all required courses when they are offered. This is a block scheduled program so courses are only offered once each year.

Is it hard to get into the dental hygiene program?

Yes. Admission in to the dental hygiene program is quite competitive. The dental hygiene program is a limited enrollment program. The admissions process is designed to choose the best qualified students who have a greater chance of successful completion of the program. A point system is used by the Dental Hygiene Admissions Committee to rank candidates. The top eighteen candidates are offered admission to the program. More information on the admissions process can be found in the Dental Hygiene Bulletin.

How many total students are offered admission into the dental hygiene program each year?

The dental hygiene program currently accepts a maximum of twenty-two students each year. The first eighteen students are accepted based on the competitive point system described below. The additional four slots are allotted to the US Navy for active duty Navy personnel.

What can I do to improve my chances of being accepted?

The best way to position yourself well for admission into the dental hygiene program is to accumulate the greatest number of points possible. One way to do that is to take and earn high grades in the related courses offered in the dental hygiene curriculum. Those courses include:

  • BIO 163 Basic Anatomy and Physiology
  • CHM 130 General, Organic and Biochemistry
  • CIS 110 Introduction to Computers
  • BIO 175 General Microbiology
  • ENG 111 Expository Writing
  • COM 120 Interpersonal Communications
  • SOC 240 Social Psychology
  • Humanities/Fine Arts Elective

You can receive additional points for previous education, being a Certified Dental Assistant, and work experience as a dental assistant. Points are also awarded for earning an A in ACA 111, College Student Success.

I have taken several college level courses, can any of my course work be substituted?

It is possible that courses you have taken can be substituted for the required related courses. A list of course substitutions is located in the Dental Hygiene Bulletin found in the Applicants Section of the dental hygiene web site.

Is it possible for me to compete for a spot in the dental hygiene program straight from high school?

Yes, it is! Points are also awarded for specific high school courses. The courses include:

  • 10th Grade English and 11th/12th Grade English
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra II
  • Algebra III/Geometry/Trigonometry/higher level math
  • Biology
  • Advanced Biology/Physics
  • Chemistry/Physics

Points are awarded for only one course in each category. Bonus points are provided for courses in each category that are designated Honors, AG or AP. If your rank in your high school class is in the top 30%, you will receive additional points.

Candidates who complete Allied Health Science I and Allied Health Sciences II or Medical Sciences I and Medical Sciences II at the high school level with a “C” (77% – 84%) or higher will be able to earn up to an additional two points. One point will be given for each course taken (two points maximum).

What is the deadline for applying to the dental hygiene program?

December 2

If I am not accepted this year, will I automatically be put on the waiting list for the next class?

No. If you are interested in applying for a future class you must see the counselor for the dental programs and submit a Level II application. We do not maintain a waiting list from year to year.

If I am accepted in February, does that mean I will not be able to attend the program in the fall?

Not necessarily. Each year the dental hygiene program accepts several students from an alternate list. So even though you are not accepted in the first round, there is still a chance that you may be accepted later, but not later than the first day of the fall semester. If you received a letter of denial, you should make alternate plans for the Fall semester.

As an alternate, what can I do to improve my chances of entering with the fall class?

To enter the dental hygiene program, you must complete a health care provider level CPR course by the first day of class. Go ahead and take CPR so you will be ready if you receive a call offering you admission. Also, you must receive at least the first two injections in the Hepatitis B vaccination series prior to enrollment. See your physician and have your vaccination. The Hepatitis B vaccination lasts indefinitely, and you will need it prior to entering any health care field. Furthermore, if you have not yet completed the related college courses, completing them in the spring and summer semesters before the dental hygiene program begins is useful.

If you are offered admission, you must have your medical forms submitted by October 1st. So, it would be a good idea to have your physical and your PPD (tuberculin skin test) done in advance. If you accept a position and are unable to complete the health requirements in the timeframe given, you will not be allowed to work in the clinic. This will severely limit your ability to successfully complete the program.

How many alternates are offered admission each year?

This number varies, but generally only two or three alternates are accepted.

What are the chances of me getting Hepatitis or Aids from a patient?

The dental programs use Standard Precautions as the basis for infection control procedures. That means that all patients are treated as though they have an infectious disease. You will take a course that provides proper training in how to work safely and effectively prevent the transmission of disease in dental treatment. The risk of disease transmission from patient to members of the dental team is extremely low.

If I enter the dental hygiene program, will I be required to work with patients who have HIV/AIDS?

Yes, you will. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids discrimination against patient with HIV; therefore, students are required to treat all patients assigned, regardless of the disease state of the patient. Refusal to treat any patient may affect the student’s academic success.

About how many hours will I be in school each week?

The actual schedule for dental hygiene courses varies from semester to semester. A full load in the dental hygiene program ranges from 24-28 hours per week. If you have taken all of the related courses prior to entering the program, the range is much lower.

Is the program hard?

The course work in the dental hygiene program is very challenging. It is necessary to cover a large amount of material in a short amount of time. It takes a big commitment on the part of the student to successfully complete the program. That said, the faculty works hard to provide assistance to students who need additional help. Information is provided using a variety of teaching styles. Counselors are also available to provide information on learning styles, study techniques and time management. Our goal is to retain the greatest number of students possible.

What can I do to improve my chances of success in the dental hygiene program?

One thing you can do is take as many related college courses as possible prior to entering the program. This allows you more time to focus on your dental courses. Also, the ACA 111 course provides students with proven strategies for achieving success in college courses. There has been a lot of research conducted concerning the factors that make college students successful. One of the most important factors to consistently arise form this research focuses on attendance. GO TO CLASS! Students who regularly attend class perform better than those who don’t.

How much time should I set aside for study on a weekly basis?

That really depends upon you and your study skills. A general rule of thumb is that you should plan to spend about 2 hours of time outside of class for every 1 hour of class time. That means that if you are in class for 20 hours each week, you should plan to study an additional 40 hours! Of course, in the dental hygiene program, many of the class hours are labs and clinics which do not require as much outside study time. But, you can see that the dental hygiene program is a full-time commitment.

Do dental hygiene students have to maintain a certain GPA (grade point average)?

A student will be considered to be on probation with the Dental Hygiene Department if he/she earns a final grade of “D” in a dental related course. A student will be suspended from the Dental Hygiene Program if a final grade of less than “C” is earned in any dental course (DEN prefix) or a final grade of “F” is earned in any dental related course.

How many hours can I work each week and still keep up with my school work?

That’s a tough question to answer because it varies from student to student. We recommend that students not work while in the dental hygiene program. Aside from the approximately 24-28 hours per week necessary for lectures, labs and clinics, you will need additional time outside of class to complete necessary laboratory and clinical assignments. Also, you will need sufficient study and rest time.

While we recommend you not work, we realize that it is simply not financially feasible for some students not to have an income while in the program. If you MUST work, try to limit your hours to no more than 10 hours per week – less if possible. And, try to find a job that allows you flexibility in scheduling.

Does the dental hygiene program have a strict attendance policy?

Coastal Carolina Community College is committed to the principle that class attendance is an essential part of its educational program. The dental hygiene department follows the attendance policy outlined in the College Catalog. Instructors administratively drop students who miss more than 6.25% (two weeks) of class hours. Please read the College Catalog’s listed policies on reinstatement and hearings.

Is there a dress code for the dental hygiene program?

Yes. Dental hygienists are dental health professionals and their attire and appearance should reflect this. Complete guidelines are located in the Policies and Procedures Manual found in the Current Students section of this web page.

Briefly, dental hygiene students must wear clean, pressed scrubs, gowns, and clean clinic shoes when working in the clinic. Hair must be secured away from the face. Students are not allowed to wear earrings or have visible body piercing. The only jewelry allowed is a watch and engagement ring and/or wedding band. When working aboard Camp Lejeune no hand jewelry is allowed.

If my child is sick and not allowed to attend day care, can I bring him/her to school with me?

No, you may not. According to the College Catalog, no visitor, student, faculty member, or employee of the College should bring his/her children or other children with him/her to class or work. While we understand the problems associated with being a single parent, we can not allow students to bring children to school. We suggest you find a friend or neighbor who can care for your child on short notice if the need arises.

Will I take all of my courses on the main campus of the college?

All lecture and laboratory classes are held on campus. However, clinical rotations are scheduled in dental clinics aboard Camp Lejeune during all Dental Hygiene Clinic courses. Students rotate between the on-campus dental clinic and a clinic at Camp Lejeune. Students are responsible for providing their own travel to clinical rotation sites.

Will I be assigned patients to work on in labs and clinics?

Students practice pre-clinical dental hygiene skills using manikins and classmates. You are responsible for scheduling your own patients for all Dental Hygiene Clinic courses. It is the students’ responsibility to ensure that enough patients are scheduled to meet minimum requirements for clinic. Quotas are assigned for each semester and are included in the syllabus for each clinical course.

The Coastal Carolina Community College Dental Clinic maintains a list of perspective patients to assist the students in finding acceptable patients.

Someone told me that dental hygiene students are not allowed to smoke. Is this true?

The use of tobacco products has been proven to cause very serious health problems; therefore, we strongly urge all students to refrain from the use of tobacco of any type. Coastal Carolina Community College has adopted the following policy regarding smoking:

As a provider of higher education and job training, Coastal Carolina Community College promotes the health and safety of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Numerous efforts have been made toward the creation of an atmosphere which is most conducive to teaching and learning, minimizing health and safety risks to the extent possible. Consequently, upon the recommendation of the CCCC Faculty Assembly, the campus became tobacco-free effective at the beginning of the 2014 Fall Semester.

Upon the recommendation of the Coastal Carolina Community College Student Government Association, the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems is prohibited in all campus buildings, including entry ways.

The dental hygiene program does not allow students to smoke when wearing clinic attire.

Is Coastal’s dental hygiene program accredited?

Yes, the dental hygiene program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. More information can be found in the Accreditation Section under General Information.

What do employers say about Coastal’s dental hygiene graduates?

The dentists who hire our graduates consistently give them an overall rating of excellent on the Employer Survey. 100% of the employers have said that they would hire future Coastal graduates!

Why should I consider a career in dental hygiene?

Two years in the Dental Hygiene program can prepare you for a challenging and rewarding career. Graduation from the Dental Hygiene program prepares graduates to work in private dental practices, public health clinics, hospital dental clinics, military dental clinics, and in dental schools.

Whom do I contact if I want to learn more about the dental hygiene program?

Please contact Student Services at 910-938-6394 for more information.