The registered dental hygienist is a licensed oral health educator and clinical operator who, as part of the dental team, uses preventive, educational, and therapeutic methods which aid individuals and groups to attain and maintain optimum oral health. Dental hygienists can work as clinicians, educators, researchers, administrators, managers, preventive program developers, consumer advocates, sales and marketing managers, editors, and consultants. Clinical dental hygienists may work in a variety of health care settings such as private dental offices, schools, public health clinics, hospitals, managed care organizations, correctional institutions, or nursing homes.  Current employment data for Alaska is available at the Alaska Department of Labor website for dental hygienists.

The Dental Hygiene Associate of Applied Science program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association, a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation and by the United States Department of Education. The Associate of Applied Science degree is a three-year program comprising one year of science and general education courses and two years of coursework in dental hygiene. The program prepares graduates clinically and academically to take the National and Western Regional Examining Boards (WREB) for licensure. Once enrolled as an AAS dental hygiene student, the student can anticipate a four-semester, 40-hour-per-week endeavor. Some evening classes and clinics are scheduled.

Clinical dental hygiene requires the ability to sit for long periods of time, good to excellent eye-hand coordination, and excellent fine hand motor skills. Dental hygienists are exposed to bacteria and viruses. Use of protective glasses, face masks and surgical type gloves is required. The UAA Dental Hygiene Program follows CDC guidelines for infection control in dental healthcare settings.  A professional appearance must be maintained during preclinical and clinical sessions.

The Bachelor of Science Dental Hygiene program articulates with the UAA Dental Hygiene AAS degree. It provides hygienists advanced education in restorative dental hygiene and/or educational methodology. Students earning a BSDH degree may be eligible for a commission in the US Public Health Service and for teaching opportunities. The BSDH also prepares students for entry to graduate programs in dental hygiene and public health.

Transfer of credits maybe possible for graduates of an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited dental assisting program. Contact the Dental Hygiene program advisor for details.

Some expenses beyond tuition generally include activity fees, instruments, uniforms, lab fees, student organization membership, graduation pin, immunizations, cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class, board exam fees, licensure fees, student health insurance, and malpractice insurance for the Western Regional Examining Boards and professional liability insurance. Please refer to the dental hygiene program cost sheet for expense estimates, located in the Dental Hygiene Advising Syllabus.