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Dental Hygiene Program Header Image


What is a Dental Hygienist?
Employment Data

  Dental Hygienists
Median Wage (MT)* $75,730 yearly - $36.41 per hour

Median Wage (US)*

$76,220 yearly - $36.65 per hour
Annual Job Openings (MT)* 55
Annual Job Openings (US)* 17,900
Expected Growth (MT)* 10.9%
Expected Growth (US)* 10.8%
*Montana Career Information System
Career Opportunities

Career Paths

Define your role.

Working in a private dental office continues to be the primary place of employment for dental hygienists. For today’s dental hygiene professional, there are many other career pathways to explore as well. Never before has there been more opportunity for professional growth. How and where you work today is up to you.

Let your dental hygiene education and experience open doors to YOUR career path and consider the possibilities…


Dental hygienists in a clinical role assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate and document treatment for prevention, intervention and control of oral diseases, while practicing in collaboration with other health professionals. Examples of clinical settings include:

  • Private dental practices
  • Community clinics
  • Hospitals
  • University dental clinics
  • Prison facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools


Corporate dental hygienists are employed by companies that support the oral health industry through the sale of products and services. Leaders throughout the dental industry often employ dental hygienists due to their clinical experience and understanding of dental practice. Examples of corporate positions include:

  • Sales representatives
  • Product researchers
  • Corporate educators
  • Corporate administrators

Public Health:

Community Health programs are typically funded by government or nonprofit organizations. These positions often offer an opportunity to provide care to those who otherwise would not have access to dental care. Examples of public health opportunities include a variety of roles and settings:

  • Clinicians, Administrators, Researchers
  • State Public Health Officer
  • Community Clinic Administrator
  • Indian Health Service
  • Head Start programs
  • Local health departments
  • National Health Service Corps
  • School sealant programs
  • Rural or inner city community clinics


Research conducted by dental hygienists can be either qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative research involves conducting surveys & analyzing the results, while qualitative research may involve testing a new procedure, product, or theory for accuracy or effectiveness. Examples of research settings include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Corporations
  • Governmental agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations


Dental Hygiene educators are in great demand. Colleges and universities throughout the U. S. require dental hygiene instructors who use educational theory and methodology to educate competent oral health care professionals. Corporations also employ educators who provide continuing education to licensed dental hygienists. Examples of education positions may be full time or part time and include:

  • Clinical instructors
  • Classroom instructors
  • Program directors
  • Corporate educators


Dental hygienists in administrative positions apply organizational skills, communicate objectives, identify and manage resources, and evaluate and modify programs of health, education and health care. Examples of administrative positions include:

  • Clinical Director, statewide school sealant program
  • Program Director, dental hygiene educational program
  • Dean of Health Sciences, educational institution
  • Executive Director, state association staff
  • Director, corporate sales


By using imagination and creativity to initiate or finance new commercial enterprises, dental hygienists have become successful entrepreneurs in a variety of businesses. Entrepreneurial opportunities developed by dental hygienists include:

  • Product Development and Sales
  • Practice Management Company
  • Employment Service
  • CE provider or Meeting Planner
  • Consulting Business
  • Founder of Nonprofit
  • Independent Clinical Practice
  • Professional Speaker / Writer

Source - “Career Center.” ADHA,

Why Great Falls College MSU

The Dental Hygienist is a licensed professional member of the healthcare team who integrates the roles of educator, consumer advocate, practitioner, manager, and researcher to support total health through the promotion of oral health and wellness. The focus of dental hygiene is on preventing oral disease.

Upon receipt of the Associate of Applied Science Degree, successful completion of the National Dental Hygiene Board Examination is required. The graduate will also need to obtain a license for the state he/she wishes to practice in by successfully completing a regional practical examination (WREB). The dental hygienist must practice in accordance with the requirements of the individual state's practice acts and abide by requirements to maintain licensure.

The Great Falls College MSU’s Dental Hygiene Program is a limited enrollment program, accepting 25 students each year. Interested students are urged to contact the Program Director or the Advising & Career Center Advisors for student advising specific to admission requirements and criteria for program acceptance.

When students graduate, they will have met the following competencies:

1. Apply a professional code of ethics in all endeavors. This should include assuming responsibility for professional actions and care based on current standard of care. This standard of care should incorporate scientific theories and research.

2. Adhere to state and federal laws, recommendations, and regulations in the provision of oral health care.

3. Use critical thinking skills, comprehensive problem solving and reflective judgement  to identify oral health care strategies that promote patient health and wellness as well as they should be able to determine a dental hygiene diagnosis. These strategies should consider predisposing and etiologic risk factors to prevent disease.  In addition, these strategies should recognize how systemic diseases, meds, and oral health conditions influences patient care.

4. Use of  evidence-based decision making to evaluate emerging technology and treatment modalities as well as accepted scientific theories and research to provide not only quality, cost effective care but also educational, preventative and therapeutic oral health services

5. Continuously perform self-assessment for lifelong learning and professional growth that may include pursuing career opportunities within health care, industry, education, research, and other roles as they evolve in dental hygiene. They should understand how to access professional and social networks to pursue professional goals.

6. Communicate effectively with diverse individuals and groups, serving them without discrimination by acknowledging  and appreciating diversity.

7. Promote the values of the dental hygiene profession as well as positive values of overall health and wellness to the public and organization through service­ based activities, positive community affiliations and active involvement in local organizations within and outside the profession.

8. Apply quality assurance mechanisms to ensure continuous commitment to accepted standards of care that include methods that ensure the health and safety of the patient and clinician in the delivery of care.

9. Initiate a collaborative approach with all patients to develop an individualized care plan that may include collaboration with and consultation from other health care providers to formulate a comprehensive dental hygiene care plan that is patient centered.  Use of professional judgement and current science based evidence should be considered as well as the unique needs of each patient including cultural sensitivity and referrals as needed. These referrals may include physiological, psychological or social problems. Adherence to disease prevention or maintenance strategies should also be addressed.  Finally obtain and document patients informed consent based on through presentation of case.

10. Systematically collect, analyze, and record diagnostic data on the general, oral, and psychosocial health status of a variety of patients.  Record accurate, consistent and complete documentation of oral health services provided.

11. Identify patients at risk for medical emergency, and manage patient care to prevent emergency.  Manage a medical emergency by using professional judgement that may include providing life support and CPR as well as specialized training and knowledge.

12. Provide specialized treatment that includes educational, preventative, and therapeutic services designed to achieve and maintain health that includes determining outcomes of dental hygiene interventions using appropriate techniques. Also, evaluate the effectiveness of this treatment, as well as compare actual outcomes of dental hygiene interventions with expected outcomes and adjusted as needed to provide optimal care.

13. Identify population risk factors as well as oral health needs in the community and develop strategies that promote health-related quality of life which may include determining availability of resources to meet the health care needs of this population or community In addition advocate for effective oral health care for underserved populations.

14. Provide screenings, referrals and educational services that allow patients to access the resources of the health care system.

15. Provide community oral health services in a variety of settings and evaluate the outcomes of community-based  programs, and plan for future activities.

16. Evaluate reimbursement mechanisms and their impact on the patient's access to oral health care.

Dental Hygiene Program Goals:

Patient Care:

Provide challenging clinical experiences that encompass dental hygiene care for the child, adolescent, adult, geriatric, and special needs patients so students can demonstrate clinical care that is safe, effective and ethical.


Provide a comprehensive curriculum in dental hygiene that reflects current practice and incorporates a variety of health care settings.


Incorporate evidence-based research into presentations for dental hygienists that require students to analyze and assess emerging technology and treatment modalities hygienist can integrate into their clinical practices.


Promote participation in professional organization and community service projects.

Figure Out Your Finances

Estimated Resident Program Cost*

Tuition and Fees $12,074
Application Fee $30
Lab Fees $265
Program Fee $1,771
Books/Supplies/Instruments $3,116
Total $17,256

Students will be required to purchase dental instruments, supplies, uniforms, and may also be required to provide transportation to clinical sites and lodging costs depending on the clinical sites selected.

Explore Course Lists

Many students need preliminary math, science, and writing courses before enrolling in the program requirements. These courses may increase the total number of program credits. Students should review their math and writing placement before planning out their full program schedules.

Prerequisite Courses

BIOH 201Human Anat Phys I/Lab (= 301) **,+4
BIOH 211Human Anat Phys II & Lab(=311) *,+4
NOTE: UM Western students may substitute BIOB 160, BIOH 365 & BIOH 379 for GFC MSU BIOH 201 & BIOH 211. All 3 classes are required and must have a grade of C or higher (not C-) within the last 5 years of application.
BIOM 250Microbiology for Hlth Sci wLab *,+4
M 121College Algebra (OR Any math course in the MUS Core) **,+3
WRIT 101College Writing I **,+3
Select one of the following:
CHMY 121Intro to General Chem w/Lab **,+4
CHMY 141College Chemistry I w/Lab **,+4
CHMY 143College Chemistry II w/Lab *,+4
Total Credits22-27

All prerequisite courses and dental hygiene program application must be completed by June 10th prior to fall entry into the program. A grade of C (not a C-) or above must be achieved in all prerequisite and program courses to advance in the program and to graduate.

Program Course Requirements

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
DENT 101 Intro to Dental Hyg/Preclinic *,+ 2
DENT 102 Intro to DH/Preclinic Lab *,+ 2
DENT 105 Professional Issues/Ethics in Dental I *,+ 1
DENT 110 Theory of Infect Ctrl and Dis *,+ 1
DENT 118 Oral Anatomy for Hygienists *,+ 3
DENT 122 Radiology I/Lab *,+ 2
HTH 140 Pharmacology for HC Providers *,+ 2
DENT 125 Radiology II/Lab *,+ 2
DENT 150 Clinical Dent Hyg Theory I *,+ 2
DENT 151 Clinical Dent Hyg Practice I *,+ 4
DENT 160 Periodontology I *,+ 3
DENT 165 Oral Histology and Embryology *,+ 2
DENT 240 Local Anes/Nitrous Ox Theo/Lab *,+ 2
DENT 220 Dental Nutrition Health *,+ 3
DENT 223 Clinical Dent Hyg Theory II *,+ 2
DENT 251 Clinical Dent Hyg Practice II *,+ 4
DENT 260 Periodontology II *,+ 2
Second Year
DENT 130 Dental Materials *,+ 2
DENT 237 Gerontology/Special Needs Pts *,+ 2
DENT 250 Clinical Dent Hyg Theory III *,+ 2
DENT 252 Clinical Dent Hyg Practice III *,+ 5
DENT 263 General/Oral Pathology *,+ 3
Select one of the following:  
COMX 111 Intro to Public Speaking + 3
COMX 115 Intro to Interpersonal Communc + 3
DENT 205 Professional Issues/Ethics in Dental II *,+ 1
DENT 232 Comm Dental Hlth and Educ *,+ 2
DENT 280 Clinical Dent Hyg Theory IV *,+ 1
DENT 281 Clinical Dent Hyg Practice IV *,+ 5
SOCI 101 Introduction to Sociology + 3
Select one of the following:  
PSYX 100 Introduction to Psychology + 3
PSYX 230 Developmental Psychology + 3
 Total Credits71


Application Deadlines

Program Admission Process

Application packets are accepted on an ongoing basis, but must be postmarked on or before June 15 to be eligible for admission into the Dental Hygiene Program for the upcoming Fall semester. Only complete application packets will be processed. Hand delivered application will not be accepted nor will the GFC MSU verify receipt of application. DO NOT CALL US REGARDING RECEIPT OF YOUR APPLICATION. If you call, we do not have access to received applications and will not be able to look for you. If you are concerned about receipt and would like verification of delivery

The priority deadline for applications to the Dental Hygiene Program is June 15. Completed Program Application Packets may be hand delivered to Health Science Program Assistant at the College or mailed to the College.

Contact Information

Health Science Program Assistant
Room R227

Mailing Address:

Great Falls College MSU
Dental Hygiene Program Admissions Committee
Attention: Dental Clinic Manager
2100 16th Avenue South
Great Falls MT, 59405

  • Please send all application items as a completed packet. Items sent separately and at random are easily lost or misfiled. We are not responsible for any late, lost or misfiled information. Please only send required documentation as other supplemental items will be discarded.
  • Priority Application Due Date: June 15
  • It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met by the established deadline. Deadlines, guidelines, and policies apply equally to all students; thus, there can be no exceptions.
  • Great Falls College MSU’s Dental Hygiene Program does not maintain a waiting list. Applicants must reapply each year.

Application opens February 15th and application submissions must be postmarked by June 15th.

Dental Hygiene Program Application


The Dental Hygiene Program at Great Falls College MSU has undergone an accreditation process through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). CODA granted the dental hygiene program the accreditation status of “approval without reporting.” The next site visit will be 2026.

LAST SITE VISIT DATE: October 2 and 3, 2018

Continuing Your Education

For dental hygienists looking to take their education to the next level we would encourage you to look at the ADHA website for the most current and up-to-date information on colleges offering degree-completion programs or master’s degrees in dental hygiene.

ADHA Professional Roles

Additional Information
  • Provide Dental Hygiene care at Nexus Methaamphetamine Treatment Facility in Lewistown.
  • Providing Dental Hygiene care at the Fort Harrison’s Veterans Administration in Helena
  • Work with Patients at Great Falls Clinic Cancer Center and Benefis/Sletten Cancer Facility
  • Gateway Recovery Program
  • Children’s Receiving Home
  • WIC and Opportunities Inc
  • Pre-Release Center-boot Camp
  • Special Olympics/Special Smiles
  • Saint Thomas Child Care Center
  • Senior Citizen Newsletter
  • Veteran’s Upward Bound
  • Migrant Farm Worker Project in Polson
  • Montana State Prison
  • Crest Program at the Boys and Girls Club
  • Dental Health Activity at Cambridge Court Senior Living Facility
  • Project Homeless Connect in Kalispell and Missoula
  • Providing Dental Hygiene care at the Cooperative Clinic in Helena
  • Give Kids a Smile Day (Sealants)

Great Falls College MSU
Dental Hygiene In The News


Dental Hygiene Faculty


Julie Barnwell

Julie Barnwell

Office: R186

Rachael Bruce photo

Rachael Bruce

Office: R183

Kim Dunlap photo

Kim Dunlap

Office: R185