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The Best Online Dental Hygiene Schools: 2020

Explore top schools, review online courses, curriculum, financing options, and the licensing you’ll need to get your career started. Take your first steps toward a degree in dental hygiene today.

Last Updated: 09/02/2020
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MEET THE EXPERT

Jennifer-McGivney
Jennifer McGivney

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Jennifer McGivney is a licensed dental hygienist with a decade of experience working in dental care. She began her career as a dental assistant before going on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene from Loma Linda University.

When you enroll in an online dental hygiene program, you need to be confident you’re going to receive the training necessary to land a job after graduation. Because it can be difficult to know which school to choose, EduMed has created the Best in 2020 initiative for students to review the best and most affordable online dental hygiene schools around the country. With data and information that’s updated quarterly, future dental hygienists get the most up-to-date info on schools that we have vetted for cost, quality, and flexibility. See who’s making a difference for 2020.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

#School NameTypeCostOnline ProgramsMore DetailsSchool InformationOnline StudentsAcademic CounselingCareer PlacementStudents w/Institutional AidMedian Earnings 10yrs After EntryAccreditation
1The University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan Antonio, TXPublic$$2

UTHSCSA offers both undergraduate and graduate options to currently-licensed dental hygienists seeking to advance their professional skills by earning a degree through online study. Most students entering the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program will complete the remaining 30 of the 123 credit hours of coursework needed to earn their bachelor’s degree. Didactic coursework is done online. Students are, however, required to complete a number of in-person practicum experiences throughout the course of this two-semester (fall and spring) part-time program. UTHSCSA’s 36-credit hour Master of Dental Science in Dental Hygiene program is designed to prepare graduates for leadership positions in the profession through advanced coursework and in-person experiences in teaching, research methods, and public health.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $5,654 (est. total tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CODA (program)

MS in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $8,988 (est. total tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
2Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, VAPublic$$$2

Old Dominion University offers a number of online options for dental hygiene students seeking an advanced DH degree. ODU’s post-licensure Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program is a degree completion program that allows currently-licensed dental hygienists with a DH certificate or associate degree to earn their bachelor’s by completing a minimum of 30 credit hours (of the 120 total needed to earn the degree) through ODU. All coursework is offered fully online. ODU’s 34-credit hour, non-thesis Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program also features coursework that can be completed fully online. However, both degree programs require students to participate in in-person practicum or internship hours at an approved practice site. DH bachelor’s degree students intending to continue on to earn their master’s who meet certain requirements have the opportunity to complete up to 12 credit hours of graduate coursework during their bachelor’s studies that will apply to both degrees through ODU’s linked Dental Hygiene B.S. to M.S program.

Program Overviews:

BS in Dental Hygiene (post-licensure)

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $356/credit (in-state); $407/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SOCSCOC (school); CODA (program)

MS in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 34
  • Length: Varies (up to 6 years for part-time students)
  • Cost: $547/credit (in-state); $1,383/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SOCSCOC (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
70%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
3MCPHS UniversityBoston, MAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$3

There are three dental hygiene degree programs from MCPHS that feature online coursework. The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program features part-time study that allows currently-licensed dental hygienists to complete their degrees while continuing full-time employment. Students can transfer in up to 44 credit hours for coursework completed in their associate degree programs. The 36-credit hour Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program prepares graduates for careers outside of clinical practice as administrators, educators, and researchers. Public health and education tracks are available. MCPHS additionally offers an A.S. to M.S. in Dental Hygiene bridge program that feature fully-online coursework and can be taken in either a full-time or part-time study format. Public health and education tracks are offered in the bridge program as well.

Program Overviews:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $760/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CODA (program)

MS in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Varies (24 months typically)
  • Cost: $990/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CODA (program)

AS to MS in Dental Hygiene (bridge program)

  • Credits: 54
  • Length: Varies (36 months typically)
  • Cost: $760/credit (undergraduate courses); $990 (graduate courses)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
4Ferris State UniversityBig Rapids, MIPublic$$$1

Ferris State University offers its Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program to individuals who have completed (or are about to complete) a dental hygiene associate’s degree program and licensed dental hygienists seeking to expand their professional knowledge base and increase their attractiveness to employers. Students in this program engage in self-directed learning activities that prepare them for advanced roles in research, communications, practice management, educational leadership, and more. All coursework is completed fully online. Students are required, however, to complete an in-person practicum experience with field work in one or more areas of advanced dental hygienist practice. Earning the degree requires a total of 121 to 123 credit hours, a minimum of 39 of which must be earned through FSU.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (completion program)

  • Credits: 39
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $452/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
74%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
5Oregon Institute of TechnologyKlamath Falls, ORPublic$$2

Oregon Institute of Technology’s online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program allows students to transfer in substantial credits previously earned in their associate degree programs. The program additionally awards credits for successful completion of the dental hygiene national board exam. Students must complete 45 credits through OIT. OIT also offers a fully-online Master of Science in Allied Health degree with Dental Hygiene Track. The curriculum consists of a total of 49 credit hours of allied health core courses in subjects such as evidence-based medicine, leadership theory and practice, and legal and ethical issues, as well as four dental hygiene track courses in administration, biostatistics, medical education theories and methods, and grant proposal writing. Students choose to complete their program with either a masters’ thesis or capstone project.

Program Overviews:

Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 45
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $257/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)

MS in Allied Health with Dental Hygiene Track

  • Credits: 49
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $367/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
6University of Michigan-Ann ArborAnn Arbor, MIPublic$$$$2

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor’s two-year Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program prepares current dental hygiene professionals for career opportunities beyond clinical practice. Students in the program complete the remaining 36 of 120 credit hours of coursework needed to earn the degree. The curriculum culminates in a capstone project and ePortfolio documenting the student’s professional development in the program. All coursework is completed online. However, some practicum activities may require in-person participation. In addition to its bachelor’s completion program, UM offers a fully-online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program that provides graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to become leaders in the oral health field.  The curriculum is designed to be completed in two years (six semesters, including summer sessions) with students taking two courses each semester.

Program Overviews:

Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $30,096 (total est. tuition and fees, in-state); $86,040 (total est. tuition and fees, out-of-state)
  • Mode: Fully or partially online.
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)

Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $37,920 (total est. tuition and fees, in-state); $63,336 (total est. tuition and fees, out-of-state)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
51%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
7Community College of DenverDenver, COPublic$1

The Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program available through the Community College of Denver allows currently-registered dental hygienists the opportunity to expand their professional knowledge base and advance their DH careers. The curriculum consists of 65 credit hours of dental hygiene courses that are taken over a total of six semesters (two years), including summer sessions. Students transfer in an additional 28 credits for coursework previously taken in their dental hygiene associate degree or certificate programs. Degree completion coursework is offered entirely online. However, students are required to complete in-person clinical practice experiences at program-approved sites during each of the final four semesters of the program.

Program Overview:

BAS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 65
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $148.90 (in-state); $610.90 (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
19%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8Clayton State UniversityMorrow, GAPublic$$1

Clayton State University’s Registered Dental Hygienist to Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program requires 30 credit hours of CSU program coursework which is typically completed in one year (fall, spring, and summer semesters) of academic study. Degree completion program credits are combined with 60 previously-earned core curriculum general education course credits and 30 program prerequisite dental hygiene professional development credits to meet the 120 total credit hours needed for graduation. All didactic coursework is presented online. Students are, however, required to complete an in-person clinical teaching internship at either CSU’s on-campus clinic or other program-approved off-campus practice facility.

Program Overview:

RDH-BSDH Degree Completion

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $365/credit (tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
12%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
9Pueblo Community CollegePueblo, COPublic$$1

Pueblo Community College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program is designed for licensed dental hygienists (RDH) with a dental hygiene associate degree to expand their professional opportunities into areas such as education, administration, public health, and more. The program requires a total of 120 credit hours which includes credits transferred in from the student’s previously-completed DH associate degree program. A minimum of 30 credit hours must be earned through PCC. Courses are taken in sequence, one 8-week long course at a time, to accommodate students’ continued full-time dental hygienist employment. All degree work is accessed and completed online with the exception of the capstone project, in which the student is required to give an in-person presentation at a DH-related site of his or her choosing.

Program Overview:

BAS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $315.45/credit (in-state COF); $409.45/credit (in-state non-COF and out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
1%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
10College of Southern NevadaLas Vegas, NVPublic$1

The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program from the College of Southern Nevada allows students with a previously-earned associate degree to transfer in the general education and DH-specific credit hours earned in that program to complete the bachelor’s degree graduation requirements. Students complete 30 to 31 credit hours of fully-online coursework over the course of the two-year, part-time program. Courses are taken in sequence over six semesters starting with the summer session. Students choose between specialty tracks in Public Health and Education. Students opting for the Education track must complete an in-person teaching externship in a CODA-approved dental hygiene practice setting.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 30-31
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $185.75/credit (est. tuition and fees, in-state); $370.75/credit (est. tuition and fees, out-of-state)
  • Mode: Fully online (Public Health track); Partially online (Education track)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
21%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
11Ohio State University-Main CampusColumbus, OHPublic$$$2

Ohio State University offers two degree programs for currently-licensed dental hygienists seeking to add to their professional skills and advance their careers. OSU’s Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program can be completed in as little as one year of full-time study (depending on the number of credits transferred into the program). Coursework is accessed entirely online. However, students are required to complete an in-person practicum in a setting similar to one in which the student may practice upon graduation. OSU’s Master in Dental Hygiene (MDH) prepares its graduates for careers in both clinical and educational leadership. This 38-credit course of study also features online coursework with additional an in-person teaching or administrative internship.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 64-66
  • Length: 12 months (up to five years allowed for completion)
  • Cost: $320.46/credit (est. tuition and fees); $325.46/credit (est. tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)

Master in Dental Hygiene (MDH)

  • Credits: 38
  • Length: 24 months (full-time students); Up to five years for part-time students.
  • Cost:  $472.75/credit (est. tuition and fees); $477.75/credit (est. tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
70%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
12Eastern Washington UniversityCheney, WAPublic$$2

The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program offered by Eastern Washington University is open to currently-licensed dental hygienists who have graduated from a two-year dental hygiene community college program. The curriculum consists of 40 credit hours of dental hygiene-specific coursework designed to be completed over four semesters (two fall, two spring) of full-time study. With the exception of the practicum course during the last semester of study (which includes an in-person practice experience), all program requirements are accessed and completed entirely online. EWU also offers a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene that features fully-online didactic coursework along with an in-person practicum. This 36-credit program is also designed to be completed in four semesters (two fall, two spring) with the curriculum culminating in the writing and presentation of a thesis.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 40
  • Length: 21 months
  • Cost: $421.50/credit (tuition and online fee)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)

MS in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 21 months
  • Cost: $586.07/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
51%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
13Farmingdale State CollegeFarmingdale, NYPublic$$1

The emphasis of Farmingdale State College’s Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program is to broaden the career paths of currently-working dental hygienists through foundational coursework in the areas of public health, research, and teaching. The curriculum of this 64-credit program combines upper-level courses in a range of liberal arts and sciences fields along with advanced dental hygiene courses in subjects that include practice management, teaching strategies, and health science research. All didactic coursework is presented online, although students will additionally complete a capstone project with an in-person internship component in a hospital, public health facility, or educational institution setting.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (degree completion)

  • Credits: 64
  • Length: 24 months
  • Cost: $295/credit (in-state); $708 (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
57%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
14Idaho State UniversityPocatello, IDPublic$$1

The Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree from Idaho State University prepares graduates for public health and education leadership roles in the dental hygiene profession. The program’s curriculum consists of 37 credits of dental hygiene core and emphasis-specific courses, and culminates in the writing and presentation of a thesis. Students choose between two program emphases: Dental Hygiene Education and Rural and Community Health. The program is offered primarily online with the exception of an in-person practicum requirement, on-campus visits for an orientation and graduate seminar (one week each), and oral examination for the student’s thesis defense. Both full-time and part-time study options are available. The entire program can be completed in as little as two-and-a-half to three years, but students can take up to eight years to complete their studies.

Program Overview:

MS in Dental Hygiene

  • Credits: 37
  • Length: 30 months (up to eight years allowed)
  • Cost: $661.97/credit (tuition and fees, pre-thesis); $775.97/credit (tuition and fees, thesis)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
69%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
15Wichita State UniversityWichita, KSPublic$$1

Wichita State University’s highly-flexible Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program (RDH to BSDH) provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary for advanced evidence-based practice in a range of clinical health and educational settings. All coursework is completed 100% online, and there are no in-person internship, practicum, or other clinical experience requirements. Study is self-paced and the entire program can be completed in as little as 15 months, although students can take up to six years to earn the degree. Admission into the program requires a previously-earned associate degree in dental hygiene and current dental hygiene licensure.

Program Overview:

BS in Dental Hygiene (RDH to BSDH) (degree completion)

  • Credits: 32
  • Length: 15 months
  • Cost: $343.62/credit (tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Fully-online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CODA (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
16Minnesota State University-MankatoMankato, MNPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
27%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
17Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff, AZPublic$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
18Augusta UniversityAugusta, GAPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
13%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
19Vermont Technical CollegeRandolph, VTPublic$$$2Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
79%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
20SUNY College of Technology at CantonCanton, NYPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
87%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
21Southern Illinois University-CarbondaleCarbondale, ILPublic$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
74%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
22University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences CenterOklahoma City, OKPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
23University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroe, LAPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
58%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
24St Petersburg CollegeClearwater, FLPublic$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
19%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
25East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City, TNPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
37%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
26Siena Heights UniversityAdrian, MIPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
27University of BridgeportBridgeport, CTPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$2Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
28Georgia Highlands CollegeRome, GAPublic$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
29University of MississippiUniversity, MSPublic$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
71%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
30Allen CollegeWaterloo, IAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
31Briarcliffe CollegeBethpage, NYPrivate, For-Profit$$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
32The University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHouston, TXPublic$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
33Loma Linda UniversityLoma Linda, CAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationWestern Assocation of Schools and Colleges
34The University of Tennessee-Health Science CenterMemphis, TNPublic$$$1Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Related programs worth a look:

Profiling Online Dental Hygiene Programs

Finding the right program is never easy. You can look at the data and read reviews, but the devil is in the details. To help aspiring dental hygienists narrow down their options, we’ve thoroughly researched three online dental hygiene programs, looking for curriculum goals, cost structures, admissions requirements, and more. Get the inside scoop on three of today’s dental hygiene programs with courses available online.

Lone Star College

Lone Star College

Lone Star College offers an associate’s degree program that is designed to help future dental hygienists enter the workforce quickly. The school provides small class sizes so students get the individualized attention they need from instructors to get the most out of the program. In addition, the school has state-of-the-art equipment for the hands-on training part of the program, including ultrasonic and radiographic technologies. Armed with these tools, students take coursework in community dentistry, dental materials, periodontology, and medical microbiology to get the intensive training they need to enter the field.

In order to gain admission into Lone Star College’s program, prospective students must complete prerequisite classes in chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and sociology. In addition, applicants must have an overall minimum grade point average of 2.0 and they are required to attend an information session at the school during the application process. After being formally admitted, students are required to undergo a background check and earn a CPR certification.

As of early 2020, the tuition to attend Lone Star College’s dental hygiene program is about $800 per semester. Students are able to get assistance to help defray the cost with grants and loans, as well as work-study and book advances.

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College offers dental hygiene programs on the associate and bachelor’s levels that train students to work in a variety of settings, including dental offices, public health clinics, and nursing homes. Students in the associate’s degree program, which takes two years to complete, receive a strong foundation in dental hygiene through courses in orofacial anatomy, dental pharmacology, dental materials, and preventive dentistry. This coursework is rounded out with some general education classes, which include psychology, mathematics, and speech communication. During the clinical portion of the program, students learn how to work directly with patients and acquire skills like using dental instruments properly and treatment planning.

Those who enroll in St. Petersburg College’s bachelor’s degree program, which is conducted completely online, get a more advanced education in dental hygiene. This is a degree completion program designed to give licensed hygienists additional training to move up the ladder in their careers. Coursework in this program covers areas like issues in dental hygiene, entrepreneurship, health care law and ethics, and advanced periodontics.

As of January 2019, students in the associate’s degree program at St. Petersburg College were charged $19,788. Those who enrolled in the school’s bachelor’s degree program paid $6,091 if they were in-state students and $18,214.60 if they were out-of-state students.

The University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico offers an online dental hygiene master’s degree that allows students to gain advanced decision making and problem solving skills and learn how to conduct original research. This program also has a clinical component where students participate in an internship to sharpen the abilities they learned during their courses.

In order to be admitted, prospective students must have a current dental hygiene license, a dental hygiene degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, and a minimum grade point average of 3.0. As of early 2019, the University of New Mexico charged a tuition rate of $277.82 per credit, as well as $69.82 for fees to in-state students. Those who enrolled in the school from other locations were charged $937.96 per credit tuition and $69.82 for fees.  

What Dental Hygiene Programs Are Fully Online?

Those who have completed entry-level education in dental hygiene have the option to enroll in a fully online degree program. This is a convenient alternative for those who may be working full-time jobs or raising families, and they get the same quality education that their on-campus counterparts receive. The following are examples of some of these fully online dental hygiene programs.

Degree Completion Program

Degree completion programs are for licensed dental hygienists who have already completed a certificate or associate degree program and want to get further training that opens more doors for them in their career. In order to be admitted into these programs, students are generally required to have an active license in the state, a minimum grade point average of 2.5, and relevant work experience.

These programs, which can take about two years to complete, build on dental hygienists’ prior knowledge and skills by offering coursework in advanced industry science and practices. Through this combination of evidence-based theories and advanced techniques, students leave the program with stronger decision-making, communication, and leadership skills that can help them qualify for higher-level jobs and command larger salaries. As a result, students can get employment in a variety of settings including dentists’ offices, hospitals, public health agencies, or private companies after graduation.

Master’s Degree

Many professionals who grow into their role as dental hygienists eventually desire to take on more responsibilities—even beyond the one’s they learned on the bachelor’s degree level. For these people, a master’s degree program can prepare them for leadership roles in the field—whether they want to teach the next generation of dental hygienists, perform research that improves clinical practices, or take a managerial role in a health care facility. In order to be admitted into a graduate-level program, prospective students are required to have a dental hygiene bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 minimum grade point average, a current license, and a certain minimum score on the GRE or TOEFL. Also, schools may require applicants to have a certain amount of clinical experience.

Students in master’s degree programs learn advanced concepts related to oral microbiology and pathology, periodontics, immunology, and histology. In addition, they will obtain skills that allow them to move up in their careers, such as research, leadership, teaching, and written and verbal communication skills. After taking two years of coursework, students may be required to complete a thesis based on their own independent research.

Entry-level Dental Hygiene Courses with Online Components

In order to prepare to take the licensing exam and find employment, future dental hygienists should enroll in entry-level programs that gives them clinical experience and teach them the basic theories of the field. These programs are often attractive to those who want to start a new career, so they are offered in the online and hybrid formats that allow them to conveniently fit their classwork into their work schedules.

Those who enroll in programs that are conducted completely online can take all of their classes through their school’s learning management system. As a result, they can watch lectures, collaborate with professors and peers, access course material, hand in assignments, and take tests online. However, in order to get the clinical experience they need to put the ideas they learned into practice, they will be required to participate in laboratory work on campus, as well as internships in a dental office. On the other hand, students who enroll in partially online dental hygiene programs complete most of their work on campus, but they do have the opportunity to complete some of their classwork online.

The following are examples of the different degree levels that train dental hygienists.

Certificate

Through a combination of clinical experiences and academic instruction, students who enroll in certificate programs can prepare for a dental hygiene career in about two to three years. These programs can be competitive, so schools expect students to demonstrate high academic performance, as well as a strong desire to work in a dental office to help the community, in order to be admitted. Some of the admissions requirements may include earning a CPR certification, completing a high school diploma or its equivalent, and participating in a criminal background check. In addition, students may be expected to complete prerequisite classes in microbiology, chemistry, and anatomy before they can be officially admitted into the program.

Although these programs are not as common as associate degrees, dental hygiene certificates are a good choice for those who want intensive training. After they complete their certificate, graduates can go on to work in general dental practices, nursing homes, hospitals, and public health clinics.

Associate

Like certificate programs, associate degree programs are designed to train students to earn their license and land entry-level jobs by teaching basic patient care skills. In order to be admitted, students should also have a high school diploma and CPR certification, as well as a background check.

Although the dental hygiene curriculum is similar to certificates, associate’s degree programs also have additional general education requirements in areas like sociology, mathematics, and psychology. Students in these programs are also expected to complete a certain number of clinical hours that include in-class simulations and real-world experiences in a doctor’s office.

Bachelor’s

Dental hygiene bachelor’s degrees are generally for those who want to train for career advancement, although in some cases, programs accept students who don’t have previous experience. These programs, which take four years to complete, allow people with an active dental hygiene license to get more advanced skills than they learned in their associate’s degree program, as well as help those who have never studied this discipline develop the capabilities they need to enter the field.

Core Dental Hygiene Classes

The exact curriculum of a dental hygiene program can vary from school to school, however, they are all designed to teach students the skills they need to pass their licensing examination and have a successful career. In addition, students on different levels will find different types of classes available. The following are examples of some of the coursework that can be found in these programs.

Oral-Anatomy

Oral Anatomy: This course is designed to lay the foundational knowledge of all the services students will provide to their patients. The curriculum covers parts of the oral cavity, as well as the neck and head, and instructs students on how to navigate tools in these areas. In some cases, this course may have classroom and laboratory components.

Pharmacology

Pharmacology: Pharmacology classes focus on the medications used to treat dental problems. Students learn the different types of medications found in a dental practice, how medications are administered, and the positive and negative effects of these drugs. The course may also discuss controlled substances and addiction in order for students to get a full understanding of the ramifications of using certain types of drugs.

Periodontology

Periodontology: Students who take this class learn about periodontal anatomy and physiology, and how to identify diseases that are in this area of the body. They also get experience performing assessments, treating periodontal problems, and educating patients about disease management.

Research-Principles

Research Principles: This class covers the principles and methods of conducting evidence-based research. The curriculum addresses how to craft a hypothesis, plan and design a study, execute the research, and analyze and present data. Students may also learn about the ethics associated with conducting original research, as well as the technology tools researchers use during the course of a study.

Restorative-Dentistry

Restorative Dentistry: The principles, procedures, and tools of restorative dentistry are covered in this course. Students get hands-on experience of restorative dentistry practices, including how to select and prepare materials that are used on patients.

Community-Dentistry

Community Dentistry: Students who want to work in a public health setting can take this class to learn about the role that community dentistry can play in a specific location. The course covers how public health programs are developed and implemented from start to finish. In addition, the class may cover how to perform a statistical analysis of community dental health data.

Other-courses-include

Other courses include:

  • Dental Ethics
  • Oral Radiology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Dental Materials
  • Dental Office Practice
  • Patients With Special Needs
  • Biochemistry
  • Patient Records
  • Dental Specialties
  • Clinical Practice

How to Finance an Online Dental Hygiene Program

Like students in other types of academic programs, those enrolled in dental hygiene schools have the opportunity to obtain financial aid for their education—such as loans, grants, and scholarships. In some cases, funding may be available directly from a student’s school: For example, the University of Hawaii, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City are among the schools that offer scholarships to its dental hygiene students. In addition, professional organizations for members of the field may also offer funding to support the next generation of dental hygienists. For example, the American Dental Hygienists Association Institute for Oral Health has scholarships, fellowships, and grants available. Students who need additional funding may be able to receive federal subsidized or unsubsidized loans.

Dental Hygiene Scholarships & Grants

There are several sources of education funding available to those studying dental hygiene. The following are some examples of scholarships and grants students may be eligible to receive.

For more information on funding options, check out our full guide on financial aid for medical and healthcare students.

Getting Your Dental Hygienist License

Dental hygiene professionals are required to obtain a license before they can legally hold down a job in the field. In order to do this, people are required to complete a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Individual states may also have additional requirements, such as passing a state examination.

Step 1: Complete an Accredited Dental Hygiene Program

The Commission on Dental Accreditation, or CODA, is the only agency that accredits dental hygiene programs. Accreditation is important because it certifies the quality of a degree program, so in order to do this, the organization evaluates schools based on their curriculum, academic policies, and facilities for hands-on training.

Step 2: Pass the NBDHE Exam

The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination is a two-part multiple choice test, which is made up of 350 questions, designed to gauge students’ understanding of the concepts and techniques they learned in their degree program. The first section of the test includes 200 questions that cover community health and research, dental hygiene science, and clinical services. In the second part of the test, students are presented with case studies that describe challenges dental hygienists face and are asked how to handle these scenarios.

Step 3: Pass Regional or State Clinical Exam

In addition to the NBDHE, prospective dental hygienists are required to pass a clinical examination in order to demonstrate their understanding of the hands-on training they received. Some states have their own test, while others use tests that are provided by the Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA), the North East Regional Board (NERB) of Dental Examiners, the Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA), the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB), or the Central Regional Dental Testing Services (CRDTS).

Step 4 (Varies): Fulfill Additional State Requirements  

Individual states may have additional dental hygienist licensure requirements, such as obtaining a Basic Life Support certification, passing a jurisprudence exam, or completing infection control training. Professionals may also be expected to undergo criminal background checks and child abuse clearance.

Dental Hygienist Career Outlook & Salary Potential

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for dental hygienists are expected to grow by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026, which amounts to 40,900 additional positions for students to land after graduation. The agency reports that this job growth can be attributed to older people being more likely to keep their natural teeth than previous generations.

Other medical support professions will also experience growth during this time period. For example, dental assistants will see a 19 percent increase in jobs, medical assistants will have 29 percent more positions, and the growth for physician assistants will be 37 percent.

How Much Can You Make as a Dental Hygienist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2016, the median annual salary for dental hygienists is $72,910. In addition, the top 10 percent of earners made $100,170, while the bottom 10 percent earn $50,870.