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Overview of a Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene

A bachelor’s in dental hygiene (BSDH program) is the entry-level degree for full clinical practice as a dental hygienist in most states. The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene requires attendance at a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited school of dentistry, including dental hygiene education along with the completion of a core of general education courses. Most programs require between 120 and 130 semester hours of study along with practical, hands-on experience through laboratory studies and supervised clinical experience rotations.

A bachelor’s degree can prepare graduates for practice and to gain a current dental hygiene license in states that require examinations and licenses. Dental hygiene is a vital part of oral health and medical care in the U.S. and holders of a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene will likely experience high levels of demand for their oral healthcare services as employees, independent contractors, and consultants.

A BSDH, dental hygiene program will teach dental hygiene students subjects and skills such as the following and prepare students for a variety of career paths and career opportunities as dental professionals such as being part of a dental team as a dental hygienist, working as dental hygiene educators, and more.

  • Oral Health
  • Public Health Promotion
  • Communication Skills
  • Management Skills and Leadership Skills
  • Clinical Skills
  • Technical Skills
  • Critical Thinking


A bachelor’s in dental hygiene (BSDH) can provide prospective students a challenging career in oral healthcare; this is a growing field as the demand for oral health services expands due to insurance coverage, public awareness, and technological advances. A Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene requires a comprehensive knowledge of oral health. Dental hygiene students can also specialize in one or more areas, such as community dentistry or maxillary implants. More than associate degrees, employers seek a degree in dental hygiene as the preferred level of education for their organizations.

Bachelor's degree holders can get further training and specialization in the form of certifications. A bachelor's degree will also support further achievement including a master’s in the dental hygiene profession that can open a wide range of research and educator career possibilities for licensed dental hygienists.


The Associate of Applied Science in dental hygiene is the standard degree for entry-level work as dental hygienists. States require licenses or registration for entry-level hygienists but do not always require a bachelor’s. The BS is a four-year degree achieved at a four-year institution. Four-year schools add two years to time frame for entry into the workforce and are far more expensive than two-year schools on average.

The bachelor’s degree is an excellent level for working as a hygienist. However, students that seek expanded roles in corporate organizations, pharmaceuticals, and marketing may need specialized training and advanced degrees.

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Certificate vs. Bachelor's

What Dental Hygiene Bachelor’s Degrees are Available Online?

Dental hygiene is a science field and, as such, there are few if any online Bachelor of Arts degrees in dental hygiene. The American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygiene association offer guidance on the career that includes many non-clinical roles. They offer positions such as sales, recruitment, speaker/writer, and entrepreneurship. In these and other ways, a dental hygiene background can merge with other courses of study in fields that award Bachelor of Arts degrees.

Online Bachelor of Arts degrees require a liberal arts courses of study. The curriculum will include a wide range of general education subjects including literature, writing and composition, research methods, and foreign languages.

Online Bachelor of Science degrees differ from arts degrees through their emphasis on science and technical subjects. The BS degree will likely require more coursework than a Bachelor of Arts degree from the same institution. BS programs require more science courses and more in-depth courses in the major field of study.

Online Bachelor of Science Completion degrees are part of a growing trend of online and on-campus learning. The program offers a two-year BS completion for students that enter with two years of college credit or an AAS from an accredited school. Completion programs are not for high school graduates; high school students must first enroll in a two-year program and follow up with a dental school completion program and degree.

RDH to BSDH is a type of program reserved for experienced and licensed dental hygienists. These programs provide a two-year or shorter program for practicing dental hygienists to get an online bachelor of science degree. There are variations on this approach to help registered dental hygienist into a BSDA (dental administration) and a BSDE (dental educator).

Dental Hygiene Bachelors Admission Requirements

The basic requirement for entry into a bachelor’s degree program for dental hygiene is a high school diploma or equivalent. The bachelor’s program is a four-year degree that involves general education, a focus on math and science, and completion of a course of study in dentistry subjects. Some schools require more; they may ask for your dental hygiene associates degree or two years of college study.

There are two types of admission for online bachelor’s programs. The traditional approach will consider high school graduates and GED holders as applicants for a four-year program that will end with a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene. The second type will not admit high school graduates; the 2+2 model offers a bachelor completion degree and admits persons with two-years of college credits to enter the dental school to complete a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

How long does it take to earn a Dental Hygiene Bachelor's Online?

The online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene is a four-year degree that consists of about 120 to 130 semester hours of coursework, labs, and practice. Students that enter as first-year students can complete the degree in eight semesters. A growing trend is the 2+2 arrangement or Bachelor of Science completion degree. Students may enter the dental school as AAS graduates and complete their online bachelor’s degree at an accredited four-year institution. Some students can reduce the time and costs by first attending a community college that offers a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited AAS program. These students may be able to reduce the overall time required by completing the AAS degree in less than two years.

Potential Careers in Dental Hygiene with a Bachelor’s

    Dental Office Managers oversee the operations of a dental office, clinic, or other organization. Their roles can include human resources, budgeting, and planning as well as the technical support for the dental practice. The average salary for a dental office manager is about $51,300.

    Dental Hygienists assist dentists with essential patient services such as examination, cleaning, and x-rays. Hygienists provide preventive care and information to patients on treatment and prevention. The average salary for a dental hygienist is about $60,100.

    Dental Assistants work closely with dentists in examinations, treatment procedures, and other duties as assigned. The average salary for a dental assistant is about $34,500.

    Classroom Instructors usually work under the direction of a more senior teacher or lecturer. They assist with demonstrations and instruction for dental students. The average salary for a dental classroom instructor is about $46,300.

    Dental Public Health Officers work with public agencies to carry out policies to promote dental health and oral disease prevention. The average salary for a dental public health officer is about $64,100.

Options to Advance

Dental hygienists can perform as licensed or registered hygienists and gain experience and greater responsibility in the dental office or clinical settings. They can go back to school and develop specializations such as implants or gerontology practice. Hygienists can also advance by further education. A masters dental hygiene degree can gain them access to careers in research. A doctoral level degree can support college-level faculty jobs.

There are other lines of work for dental hygienists that can employ their unique knowledge and experience as dental professionals. These alternatives include pharmaceutical sales, corporate roles as dental education professionals, and public service jobs in dental education and prevention.

Best Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Programs

  • University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor, Michigan

    The 126 credit hour course of study requires 30 hours of general studies before entering the school of dentistry. The comprehensive program includes gerontological hygiene, oral anatomy, dental practice emergencies, and community dentistry. The program is a 2-year completion, taken after a two-year course of required studies.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Texas A&M University
    College Station, Texas

    The Carruth School of Dental Hygiene is a vital sector of Texas A&M’s College of Dentistry. The Carruth school was endowed by private funds and has expanded its role as a source of needed professional talent in the field. The goal is to prepare graduates that can pass licensure and enter into the fields of preventive and corrective dentistry, public education, and public health.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • College of Bachelor Degrees- University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, California

    School Info – USC is one of about 55 US college programs that confer a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene. The bachelor program offers depth of knowledge essential to the future of the profession along with ethics, skills, and leadership.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Ohio State University
    Columbus, Ohio

    Ohio State offers a 2+2 curriculum that has a two-year general education phase followed by a two-year dental school phase. The program, therefore, can work for entry-level students as well as those with a CODA accredited associate degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
    • Degree Completion Program
  • University of Pittsburgh
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    The University has program accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The hygienist program has a wide range of campus-based practice opportunities through clinical rotations. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine offers dental hygiene courses of study with concentrations in Healthcare Management/Administration, Education, or Research.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
    • Baccalaureate Completion Program

Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Dental Hygiene

  • Oregon Institute of Technology
    Klamath Falls, Oregon

    The school offers an online and on-campus program for a BS in Dental Hygiene. Students can begin as first-year students or as transfers from community college with an AAS degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
    • Bachelor of Science Degree Completion
  • University of Louisiana - Monroe
    Monroe, Louisiana

    The AAS to BS program requires 63 credit hours and enables students to move into the higher levels of dental hygiene practice.

    Degrees Offered:

    • AAS-BS Completion in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Texas Health Science Center
    San Antonio, Texas

    This CODA-accredited hygiene program is a degree completion program. Students must first earn two years of credits at Texas or another school before entering the dental hygiene program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Dental Hygiene BS Completion Degree
  • Ferris State University
    Big Rapids, Michigan

    The Ferris online dental hygiene program emphasizes hands on practice and practice skills. The degree program is a degree completion program, and students must complete a minimum number of credits prior to entry. May students attend community college and save on the overall tuition and fee costs.

    Degrees Offered:

    • AAS-BS Completion in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Pittsburgh- Online
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    The University offers rolling admissions and full- or part-time study for dental hygienists online as well as on-campus. The online program also has program accreditation from CODA. The hygienist program has a wide range of community-based practice opportunities through clinical assignments and rotations. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine offers online dental hygiene courses of study with concentrations in Healthcare Management/Administration, Education, or Research.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
    • Baccalaureate Completion Program

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