Technical Standards & Essential Functions

The fundamental mission of the dental hygiene program is to prepare competent oral health care professionals. The education of a dental hygienist and dental assistant requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills, and development of judgment through patient care experience in preparation for appropriate decisions needed in practice.

Each participant in a dental studies program must have the ability, unaided or with the assistance of reasonable accommodation, to perform these Technical Standards and Essential Functions. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment that enables an otherwise qualified individual with a disability to have an opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges that are available to similarly situated individuals without a disability. A reasonable accommodation is defined on a case-by-case basis by the MCC Services for Students with Disabilities office, consult with MCC Health Services and the Dental Studies Program, and must be considered.

These technical standards and essential functions encompass the physical, cognitive, psychomotor, and affective requirements necessary for performing the duties of a dental studies student. They reflect dental hygiene and dental assisting performance abilities and characteristics that are necessary to complete the requirements of the dental hygiene and dental assisting programs at this College. These standards and essential functions are conditions of admission and completion of the program. Persons applying for admission to the programs should review these standards to understand better the physical abilities and behavioral characteristics necessary to successfully enter and complete the program. As a potential student, it is essential to assess your ability to achieve these technical standards and essential functions.

Technical Standards

  • Must be able to physically assist and move patients in and out of the dental chair.
  • Must be able to physically and mentally work in a confined space, including but not limited to a dental operatory.
  • Must possess the physical ability to reach, manipulate, and operate procedures such as dental equipment, dental chair, x-ray machines, laboratory equipment, and sterilization and disinfection.
  • Must possess the ability to sit/stand for long periods.
  • Must possess the physical ability to function with both hands and arms and have the adequate manual dexterity to perform dental hygiene procedures.
  • Must possess the physical and mental ability to wear CDC-appropriate and program-designated personal protective equipment for long periods.
  • Must possess the physical ability to clearly see the patient’s teeth from a standardized distance and the visual and mental ability to interpret radiographs.
  • Must visibly differentiate the color spectrum for tissue discrimination and discern normal from abnormal structures.
  • Must possess adequate hearing to communicate with patients, faculty, and peers (student self-evaluation of the level of hearing, reasonable accommodations, the establishment of support services, and ability to practice effectively and safely in dental hygiene and dental assisting should occur before considering a dental career).
  • Must possess adequate hand-eye coordination and the ability to distinguish right from left to perform dental hygiene procedures.
  • Must possess adequate sensory perception, range of motion, and stability in hands and fingers to manipulate instruments and detect and remove tooth deposits.
  • Must possess the ability to handle clinical and laboratory instruments and syringes with sufficient fine motor control and safely avoid patient and provider injury.
  • Must possess the ability to clearly communicate verbally and in writing, in English, to and from patients and the interprofessional healthcare team.
  • *The College complies with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Therefore, the College will make reasonable accommodations for participants with disabilities who are otherwise qualified.

Essential Functions


Students must acquire defined required information and skills as presented through demonstrations and experiences in the basic, behavioral, biomedical, and clinical sciences. For example, a student must observe patients accurately and understand verbal and non-verbal communication when assessing a patient.

The student must be able to:

  • Perform dental examinations and treatments that require the use of sight and touch
  • See fine detail, focus at various distances, and distinguish the differences and variations in color, shape, size, and texture of soft and hard tissues, including discerning accurate depth of field.
  • Employ tactile sensitivity to assess directly by palpation or indirectly by sensations transmitted through instruments
  • Use visual acuity to read charts, radiographs, computers, videos
  • Acquire information from written documents and evaluate information presented as images from paper, films, slides, photographs, or video
  • Interpret radiographs and other illustrative images
  • Demonstrate sufficient manual dexterity and fine and gross muscular coordination to provide safe general care and specific treatments.


A student must be able to use critical thinking skills to problem-solve, measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate, and synthesize. In addition, a student must be able to perform these problem-solving skills in a timely fashion for effective patient treatment and as required in emergency clinical situations.

The student must also be able to:

  • Comprehend and mentally visualize three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures
  • Demonstrates an appropriate and timely response to emergencies, including any circumstance requiring immediate and rapid resolution.
  • Accurately follow course syllabi, assignment direction, patient care protocols, and clinical and didactic procedures developed by faculty or the healthcare facility.
  • Convey appropriate information to a diverse population of patients and the interprofessional healthcare team.

Motor Skills

A student must have sufficient motor function to execute movements essential to providing all necessary patient treatment. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements and equilibrium. This includes the use of motor skills for:

  • Performing palpation, percussion, auscultation, and other diagnostic exercises.
  • Coordination of gross and fine muscular movements
  • Maintaining self-equilibrium
  • Functional uses of the senses during dental procedures such as sound, touch, and vision
  • The ability to operate controls for the use of dental equipment
  • The ability to use hand or power instrumentation for such procedures as scaling, root debridement, and polishing


A student must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients, faculty, staff, and classmates to:

  • Convey or exchange information at a sufficient level that produces an accurate health history
  • Identify health and treatment problems and provide alternative solutions and treatment options using evidence-based decision-making skills.
  • Provide patient directions during treatment and post-treatment
  • Provide and understand effective and efficient instructions with all members of the health care team
  • Teach, direct and counsel a wide variety of individuals

Emotional and Behavioral

A student must possess the physiological, psychological, and emotional health competencies essential to utilize their intellectual abilities fully. This includes:

  • Professionally exercising good judgment at all times, including in the classroom, clinical, and social situations (i.e., social media, personal conversations)
  • Development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients and colleagues
  • Enduring physically and mentally challenging workloads and functioning effectively under stress
  • Managing apprehensive patients with a range of behaviors in a respectful and congenial manner
  • Accepting criticism and responding with appropriate modification of behavior

Ethics and Professionalism

A student must maintain the standards of conduct for ethics and professionalism as outlined in The American Dental Association Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct, The American Dental Hygiene Association Codes of Ethics, The ADEA Statement on Professionalism in Dental Education, and the Monroe Community College Academic Student Policies Handbook. The Standards are as follows:

  • Maintains effective, appropriate and empathetic communication and relationships with clients/patients, students, faculty, staff, and other professionals under all circumstances.
  • Being accountable for one’s actions, recognizing and acting upon the special obligations to others that one assumes in joining a profession.
  • Develop collaborative professional relationships and exchange knowledge to enhance our lifelong professional development.
  • Acquiring and maintaining the high level of special knowledge, technical ability, and professional behavior necessary for providing clinical care to patients and for functioning in the dental education environment.
  • Being honest and demonstrating congruence between one’s values, words, and actions.