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Online Dental Hygienist Degrees, Schools and Courses

Online programs for dental hygienists tend to be degree-completion programs that allow associate's degree-holders to advance their studies to a bachelor's degree. Some master's-level programs are also available partly through online learning. Review the prerequisites, curricula and technical requirements for these programs, and get information on licensure for dental hygienists.

What I Need to Know

Dental hygienists have a few options when pursuing education in their field. They may complete an accredited dental hygiene program leading to an associate's degree, or they may complete a program at the bachelor's or master's level. Licenses are required for all dental hygienists and requirements may vary based on your state.

Degrees Online associate's degree programs are rare, but some hybrid programs exist; bachelor's degree and master's degree programs are available online
Training Oral health, oral hygiene, dental injuries; internships
Licensing Completion of accredited dental hygiene program and passing written and practical exams

What Dental Hygienist Degrees Are Available to Me?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most dental hygiene programs lead to an associate's degree; however, these programs aren't commonly offered online (www.bls.gov). Bachelor's and master's degrees in dental hygiene are available online, but they typically require in-person clinical components.

Most online bachelor's degree programs in this field are degree completion programs, designed for students who have already completed an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Degree-completion programs generally require two years of full-time study to earn a bachelor's degree.

Master's degrees in dental hygiene may be offered online or in hybrid format. Hybrid programs have on-campus requirements. A master's degree may focus on dental hygiene in general or a more specialized path of study, such as dental hygiene education.

What Will I Study?

In an online dental hygiene degree program, you'll learn to care for teeth and gums, as well as teach patients about oral hygiene. You'll be trained to detect and treat a number of oral health issues, including tooth decay, gum disease and dental injury. Due to the hands-on nature of this field, you'll likely need to arrange for an internship close to home or visit the campus to complete the clinical portion of your training. To earn a master's degree, you'll either complete a thesis or graduate research project, which may also have some on-campus requirements.

Some courses you might take include:

  • Principles of Dental Public Health
  • Foundations of Dental Hygiene Education
  • Oral Health Promotion
  • Global Healthcare
  • Grant and Contract Writing
  • Statistical Reasoning

Are There Prerequisites or Technical Requirements?

To enroll in an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene, you generally need an associate's degree or certificate from an accredited school, which can be verified with the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. A bachelor's degree is generally a prerequisite for a master's degree in dental hygiene.

Many online dental hygiene schools require you to complete a class in statistics or biostatistics. Others may require you to complete coursework in local anesthesia, nitrous oxide sedation and research methodologies. A course designed to introduce you to online learning may also be a requirement. Some programs may require you to hold a current healthcare provider CPR certification, undergo a criminal background check and show proof of your licensure.

To participate in an online or hybrid program, you'll need a computer, ISP and e-mail account. Other components and software you may need include a sound card, speakers, PowerPoint, Real Player, Acrobat Reader and Flash.

Schools for Online Dental Hygienist Degrees

Online dental hygienist degree programs can be found at the following universities:

  • Western Kentucky University: Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene completion degree
  • Eastern Washington University: Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene completion degree
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry: Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene completion degree
  • University of Bridgeport: Online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Wichita State University Online: Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene completion degree

Do I Need a License?

The BLS notes that all states require dental hygienists to be licensed. Completion of an accredited dental hygiene program, which most often leads to an associate's degree, is the most basic requirement. You'll also need to pass clinical and written exams in your state of practice, although a few states may have different licensing requirements. A bachelor's or master's degree in dental hygiene provides opportunities for advancement and help prepare you for careers in research, teaching and public health.