Online Dental Hygienist Programs

Explore 25 of the best schools that offer online dental hygiene programs as well as how long those programs take and what prerequisites are required. Learn what factors are most important in choosing a school for your online dental hygiene path. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

25 of the Best Schools with Online Dental Hygienist Programs

When compiling a list of the best online dental hygienist programs and schools, you should consider factors such as cost, program length, residency requirements and flexibility. The top 25 schools with online dental hygienist programs are listed below.

1. Pennsylvania College of Technology

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Williamsport, PA $16,740 89%

Pennsylvania College of Technology offers a completely online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree completion program and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The program consists of 75 credit hours and includes courses in global health, public dental health and dental practice administration. Students can choose between full-time or part-time study, or fluctuate between the two, and can often finish the program in six semesters. Online students have a tuition rate of $489 per credit hour, so students completing the full curriculum have a total tuition of $36,675. The program is open to licensed dental hygienists and allows students to complete an internship as part of their required capstone project.

2. Old Dominion University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Norfolk, VA $10,560 93%

Old Dominion University offers both bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program is offered completely online, consists of 120 hours (at least 30 credit hours must be completed at Old Dominion) and has an in-state tuition rate of $356 per credit. The Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program consists of 34 to 37 credit hours and has a tuition rate of $547 per credit for in-state students. Both programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and are available to licensed dental hygienists.

3. Ferris State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Big Rapids, MI $11,788 97%

Ferris State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school offers an online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program to students who have graduated from, or are in their final year of, a dental hygiene associate's degree program. The bachelor's degree program consists of 121 to 123 credit hours, many of which can be waived with transfer credits. The program includes two practicums as well as courses in marketing, health administration and health promotion. Students have tuition rates of $431 for freshmen and sophomores and $452 for juniors and seniors, and this applies to all U.S. and Canadian residents.

4. University of South Dakota

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Vermillion, SD $9,061 95%

The University of South Dakota offers an online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program that is accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation. The program is open to graduates and current students of a dental hygiene associate's degree program and consists of 120 credit hours, many of which can be transferred from the prior program. Students take courses in pharmacology, anesthesiology, radiology and dental materials. Students from South Dakota and 6 neighboring states have a tuition rate of $256 per credit hour while out-of-state residents have a tuition rate of $372 per credit hour. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers up to 50% reduced tuition to members of the South Dakota National Guard.

5. Wichita State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Wichita, KS $8,270 89%

Wichita State University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1927 and has programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Online students have a tuition rate of $224 per credit hour, regardless of their state of residence. The school offers an online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene geared toward degree-completion. It's open to current dental hygienists and consists of 32 credit hours, which can be completed in as few as 12 months. Students learn about topics such as evidence-based practice, dental hygiene education, leadership and issues in dental care.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS $3,440 96%
7 University of New Mexico-Main Campus Albuquerque, NM $7,633 96%
8 St Petersburg College Clearwater, FL $2,682 74%
9 MCPHS University Boston, MA $33,620 99%
10 Idaho State University Pocatello, ID $7,420 92%
11 Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH $10,726 82%
12 Vermont Technical College Randolph, VT $15,108 95%
13 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $11,564 94%
14 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN $8,935 97%
15 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI $15,262 63%
16 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA $7,323 94%
17 Pueblo Community College Pueblo, CO $5,179 95%
18 SUNY College of Technology at Canton Canton, NY $8,389 96%
19 Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke, PA $5,430 76%
20 Community College of Denver Denver, CO $4,750 77%
21 Georgia Highlands College Rome, GA $3,288 82%
22 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA $8,554 97%
23 College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas, NV $3,492 76%
24 Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato, MN $8,184 89%
25 Augusta University Augusta, GA $8,604 91%

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions. All table data is provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Overview of Dental Hygienist Programs

There are several types of dental hygienist degree programs, some of which are completely online. The main four types of dental hygienist programs are discussed below along with characteristics such as length and prerequisites.

Program Length Prerequisites
Associate's Degree 2 to 3 years High school diploma/GED
Bachelor's Degree 4 years High school diploma/GED
Bachelor's Degree (transfer) 1 to 2 years Associate's degree
Master's Degree 1 to 2 years Bachelor's degree

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degrees are the standard requirement for most dental hygienist positions. These programs are not available online, as students are required to complete a significant number of lab and clinical practice hours. Although the specific number of clinical practice hours vary by program, students may be required to complete 700 to 800 hours. In addition, significant lab exercises occur throughout the program, enabling students to develop and strengthen their skills. Associate's degree dental hygiene programs usually take 2 to 3 years of full-time study and are available to students with a high school diploma or equivalent. Some courses commonly included in dental hygiene associate's degree programs are listed below.

  • Dental Hygiene - explores the process of dental hygiene, hygiene assessment, relevant dental tools and computer processes.
  • Dental Anatomy - students learn the characteristics of oral tissues as well as problems with oral and related structures.
  • Dental Radiography - provides an overview of practices and safety procedures for radiology in dentistry as well as operation of equipment.
  • Pharmacology - students review commonly used pharmaceuticals in dental and other healthcare services and how to effectively and safely use them.
  • Public Health Dental Care - covers methods for assessing and improving community and population health including influencing social and economic factors.
  • Anesthesia in Dental Care - explores techniques and topics for anesthesia in dental care practice and typically includes hands-on laboratory practice.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

There are two different types of bachelor's degrees in dental hygiene programs: standard entry-level programs and associate's degree entry programs (also called degree-completion programs).

Entry-Level Bachelor's Programs

Standard bachelor's degree programs in dental hygiene are open to students with a high school diploma or an equivalent and take around 4 years of full-time study to complete. Although some courses may be available online, students will be required to complete the same lab and clinical practicum components as those included in associate's degree programs. Entry-level dental hygiene programs include many of the same courses as associate's degree programs as well as courses listed below.

Associate's Degree Entry Programs

These bachelor's degree programs are typically available to students who are in their final year of an associate's degree in dental hygiene program or who have already graduated. Most programs also require students to already have their dental hygienist license. Essentially, these programs enable licensed dental hygienists to expand on their existing knowledge to advance their careers. These programs can be completed in around 1 or 2 years of full-time study, depending on the school and student transfer credits, and usually require little to no on-site components (such as clinical practicums).

Common courses included in dental hygiene bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Periodontology - provides an overview of periodontics, including pathology and etiology of periodontal issues and applicable treatments.
  • Nutrition - explores diet and nutrition topics and practices with an emphasis on how nutrition affects dental health and disease.
  • Health Care Policy - students learn the process of policymaking in the U.S. healthcare systems as well as discuss areas in which it can be improved.
  • Systems of Healthcare Delivery - examines healthcare services systems as well as how they are affected by economic, social and political factors.
  • Managing Dental Practices - explores management practices and principles in dental practices, often including case studies for reinforced learning.
  • Oral Pathology - students further explore the tissues found within oral cavities as well as oral pathology and development.

Master's Degree Programs

Dental hygiene master's degree programs typically require incoming students to have a valid dental hygienist license and a bachelor's degree. The programs provide students with extensive knowledge of various dental hygienist topics that can be applied in practice or education. Master's degree dental hygiene programs can be completed primarily online and take around 2 years to complete. Some courses found within dental hygiene master's degree programs are:

  • Research Methods - explores research practices including data collection, design and context as well as methods for effectively communicating results.
  • Professional Leadership - provides an overview of organizational behaviors, communication, decision-making and adapting to change for effective leadership.
  • Biostatistics - students explore statistical research methods with a focus on biological issues, learning about topics such as estimation and probability.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Dental Hygiene Programs

There are two types of accreditation that are important to dental hygiene students: programmatic and institutional. Programmatic accreditation applies specifically to programs, reflecting that those programs meet specific quality criteria set by a third party. Dental hygiene programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Graduation from an accredited program is mandatory for qualifying for licensure as a dental hygienist.

Institutional accreditation can be provided by various organizations, either regional or national. Both regional and national accrediting agencies set specific criteria that schools must meet to qualify for accreditation, but regional standards are often more stringent. In addition, students who may pursue other degree programs in the future may prefer a school with regional accreditation because credits earned can typically transfer to any other school, whereas credits earned at a nationally accredited institution usually only transfer to another nationally accredited institution. Institutional accreditation, either regional or national, is mandatory for qualifying for financial aid.

How to Choose a School for an Online Dental Hygiene Program

There are several factors that you should consider when selecting a school for your online dental hygiene program, many of which are discussed below.

Programs Offered

The first consideration in your school selection is if your preferred program is offered online. If you need to complete a program with more on-site requirements, ask if these requirements can be completed near you.

Accreditation

Review the websites for your school choices, or ask your admissions advisors, to ensure they have the appropriate institutional and programmatic accreditations for the license you want.

Flexibility

Schools don't always offer online programs as both full-time and part-time options. Confirm with your school choices that they offer the program format that fits your needs. Some programs let you complete work at your pace while others require you to virtually 'attend' classes; this distinction can make a huge difference.

Cost

The cost of online dental hygiene programs can vary significantly by school, student and degree level. Costs should be reviewed and compared, but remember that financial aid is available to online dental hygiene students.

Faculty

Review the qualifications of the faculty at your school choices, and find out how long faculty typically take to respond to student questions; reliable faculty can be a key to your success in your program.

Financial Aid for Online Dental Hygiene Students

Students interested in using financial aid for online dental hygiene programs should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA shows what types of aid students might qualify for and is free to use.

Work-Study

Work-study programs allow students to pay part or all of their dental hygiene program costs by working part-time while in school. Work-study can be offered by employers or schools, and often enables students to complete their work in a field relating to their degree program.

Student Loans

Student loans are available through the government and private lenders. Those issued by the government are typically better than private loans because they're income-based, they have low interest rates and they offer flexible repayment plans.

Loan Forgiveness/Repayment

Graduates may be able to have some or all of their student loans forgiven by the government if they work in qualifying public service positions for at least ten years, but may also be able to have student loans repaid by their employers as an incentive.

Scholarships

There are countless scholarships available to students based on factors such as merit, heritage and the degree they are pursuing. Some scholarships that apply to online dental hygiene students are listed below.

  • McDonald's HACER Scholarship - These scholarships are available to high school seniors with at least one parent of Hispanic heritage; $100,000 total awarded annually.
  • ADEA/Crest Oral-B Scholarships for Dental Hygiene Students Pursuing Academic Careers - Two $3,000 scholarships are awarded to dental hygiene students each year.
  • College JumpStart Scholarship - $1,000 is awarded based on merit to high school students (9th through 12) and nontraditional students (such as online learners).

License Requirements for Dental Hygienists

Although state requirements can vary, most states require you to complete a dental hygiene program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. These pre-licensure programs are typically offered as associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs and include significant lab exercises and clinical practice hours.

After completing an accredited program, you'll need to take and pass clinical and written exams as required by your state. Many employers also require dental hygienists to have CPR certification. Once licensed as a dental hygienist, you'll need to complete continuing education credits occasionally to renew and maintain licensure.

What is a Dental Hygienist and How Much Do They Make?

Dental hygienists provide oral examinations to patients, looking for indications of diseases (such as gingivitis). They also provide extensive cleanings and other preventative care as well as patient education regarding oral and dental health. Other duties of dental hygienists can include helping patients choose dental products, processing X-ray images and applying treatments and sealants to teeth. Most dental hygienists work in dental offices, but some also work in government and other physicians' offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists had a median annual salary of $74,820 in 2018 and are expected to have an 11% job growth from 2018 to 2028.

Dental hygienists who obtain a master's degree in dental hygiene can work in clinical and research positions as well as school and public health programs. Many also pursue teaching positions in post-secondary institutions, educating dental hygienists of the future.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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