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Why Earn a Master’s in Dental Hygiene?

A Master’s degree in Dental Hygiene is designed as a full-time, 16-month program, but can also be taken part-time. Because the focus of this degree is leadership rather than hands-on learning dental techniques, there are online learning options and choices for hybrid programs, with online and in-person learning. Students are trained to become leaders in the field who will advance into the field of dental hygiene. Coursework that progressively leads to the formation of an implementation project in the final semester will be taught during the first three semesters. Students will learn to combine research findings with the dental hygiene process to form strategic care plans that promote oral health and decrease the risks of dental diseases among individuals and families.

They will also gain an understanding of statistics, data management, advanced research methodology, and program planning emphasizing areas that include both pediatric and geriatric dentistry along with education.


  • Opens up career possibilities in dental hygiene administration, public health, licensure and regulation, technology and practice advancement, education, research, and governmental programs
  • There are many organizations designed to support students pursuing a career in dental hygiene
  • You will earn more money than those that hold lower-level degrees and be able to keep working while you earn the new degree online or on-campus
  • There is a high demand for dental hygienists
  • You’ll have the ability to earn online certifications to expand job options


  • Earning a Master’s in Dental Hygiene is not very common as you can get into the field with an associate degree
  • This degree takes longer to earn, even if you earn it online
  • You will still need to pass the American Dental Association (ADA) exams, both the written and the clinical ones, to get licensed
  • There isn’t much variety of opportunity available for those who hold this degree

Compare Popular Online Programs

Overview of an Online Master's in Dental Hygiene

What Dental Hygiene Master’s Degrees are Available Online?

The online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene is the most common online master’s degree available in this field, and isn’t commonly held, as you can get an entry-level position just by holding an associate degree in this field.

The program was designed for those who have earned a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene and have their dental hygienists licensed as well and can be earned through online programs. The courses expand dental hygiene knowledge in research analysis, education, methodology, and teach students the practice and theory of laboratory and clinical and pre-clinical dental hygiene instruction.

Dental Hygiene Online Masters Admission Requirements

To get your online master’s degree in dental hygiene, you will need to:

  • Hold a degree in dental hygiene or a related area from an accredited program and an accredited college or university
  • Have already fulfilled state licensure requirements and obtained a license
  • Have a GPA of at least a 3.0
  • Good Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores
  • Submit 3 letters of recommendation: one from the director of your bachelor’s degree program and the other two can come from any individuals who can attest to your general characteristics such as a former employer, previous professors, or a representative or respected member of the dental profession.
  • Submit current curriculum vitae
  • Submit a career statement
  • Have an interview for the program that can take place by telephone, through live chat, or in person

How long does it take to earn a Dental Hygiene Master’s Online?

Getting an online master’s degree in dental hygiene can take one to two additional years of training after obtaining your bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field. Usually, online bachelor degrees in dental hygiene take around four years to complete and associate's can take 20 to 30 months. If you choose to study online part-time, you may be looking at up to 6 years to complete this graduate program.

You will need 36 credits to complete the program, however, in many online or traditional programs, some of them can be transferred from another college. Earning these credits, the time frame will depend on how much time you are willing to put into studying for your degree. Keep in mind that you will also be required to complete a capstone project. Another option is the one-year rigorous MS degree, tailored to dental hygienists.

Potential Careers in Dental Hygiene with a Master’s

  • Dental Hygienist
    Dental hygienists work within a dental office where they perform a number of duties such as cleaning teeth, removing plaque buildup and stains on teeth, applying topical fluorides, sealants, and dental prophylaxis as required, checking for oral disease indicators like swelling, and educating patients on proper hygiene and oral care such as brushing, flossing, and diet, as well as assisting dentists and other professionals with tasks such as making impressions of the teeth, taking radiographs, and helping during dental procedures.
    Average Annual Salary: $60,100
  • Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH)
    An RDH primarily works in dental offices. Education requirements to become a registered dental hygienist are graduating with an associate's degree in dental hygiene from an accredited dental hygiene school and obtaining state licensure.
    The responsibilities of an RDH includes taking x-rays, providing patients with appropriate techniques of proper dental hygiene, cleaning patients' teeth and gums, removing plaque and stains, and polishing teeth.
    Average Annual Salary: $61,000
  • Scientific Researcher
    Most scientific researchers work in scientific laboratories. They may work for government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, colleges and universities, corporations, or non-profit and private organizations.
    Their job duties usually involve preparing various documents and forms that are relevant to their research findings and studies and interviewing, screening, and recruiting candidates as human subjects for their projects. In addition, scientific researchers must always ensure the rights, confidentiality, and privacy of their human subjects is protected.
    Important skills these researchers should have are good interpersonal skills, excellent written and oral communication skills, and strong computer skills, while also being proficient with programs like Microsoft Office and PowerPoint. Research conducted by dental hygienists can be either quantitative or qualitative.
    Average Annual Salary: $80,900

Options to Advance

If you are interested in career advancement, you can choose to continue training and gain additional knowledge that will help take you into higher-leveled roles and increase your earning potential. You could actually start your journey to becoming a dentist right after earning your online bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, as you can enroll in a 4-year doctoral program in pursuit of a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Fully online programs are generally not available at this level.

Before you can apply, you may be required to complete prerequisites in chemistry, biology, English, and physics as well as take the Dental Admission Test. Some dental schools may even have doctoral programs available that will allow you to earn your bachelor’s online while also studying for your doctorate, which can be completed within 6 years.

Best Master’s of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH) Programs

  • UT Health School of Dentistry
    Houston, TX

    The UT Health School of Dentistry provides students with the skills needed to take on leadership roles in academics, research, rural, and community health settings, commercial industries, and professional associations. Those pursuing educator roles will be trained for entry and graduate level faculty positions in dental hygiene programs, which will help to alleviate the national dental hygiene faculty shortage. Students will gain a body of knowledge in dental hygiene through faculty generated, graduate scholarly activity.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Ohio State University
    Columbus, OH

    As the only dental school in Ohio that offers a dental hygiene program, Ohio University of Dentistry has a variety of flexible, exclusive programs that not many schools of dentistry offer. With the option to enroll part- or full-time in both undergraduate and graduate studies, many classes are available online. Students can specialize in Dental Hygiene Education or Expanded Functions Dental Auxiliary. Students also may participate in the dental clinic when classes are not in session.

    There is an additional Degree Completion program available for professionals who hold an associate degree, a Master’s in Dental Hygiene, or a Certification.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s in Dental Hygiene
  • Texas A&M
    College Station, TX

    After earning their bachelor’s degree, students may sit for the clinical examination and the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam for licensure, or they may continue on to earn their Master’s in Dental Hygiene, Education, Public Health, or Health Administration which is also available at Texas A&M.

    There are over 450 dental and graduate students enrolled in the school.

    There is also a modified program available for those who cannot study full-time.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Masters of Dental Hygiene
  • The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
    Los Angeles, CA

    It was over 80 years ago that the dental hygiene program was established by the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. Today, the USC Master of Science in dental hygiene degree program is internationally renowned for its excellence in preventive and clinical dental hygiene. The graduates of USC went on to become expert educators, public health clinicians, researchers, and health advocate professionals. Ostrow School of Dentistry is dedicated to the advancement of serving the community and the dental hygiene profession by providing students with a comprehensive and unique dental hygiene education only found at USC.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in dental hygiene
  • University of Washington School of Dentistry
    Seattle, WA

    This two-year program is intended to train dental hygienists in teaching relevant applied and basic science courses (e.g., oral pathology, oral histology, etc.) in dental hygiene programs. Completion of the required courses usually takes approximately 70 credit hours or 7 quarters.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Oral Health Sciences Dental Hygiene

Traditional Schools Offering a MS in Dental Hygiene

  • University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA

    The online master’s degree program is offered to professionals who are already in the field but are employed full-time. The fast track training program is a six-year, selective program, that leads to a bachelor’s degree and then a Doctorate in Dental Surgery. Courses may include Dental Morphology Lab, Patient Education in Preventive Dental Care, Infection Control, Geriatric and Special Patients, and Pain & Anxiety Control. During their studies, students are encouraged to gain some clinical experience by volunteering in a dental office or shadowing a dental hygienist.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Masters in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, MN

    The University of Minnesota’s’ School of Dentistry is a major center of dental instruction that provides consulting services, education, and treatment to five states. This dental hygiene program is available at a bachelor’s or master’s level. The master’s program is available online and gives students the option to specialize in management. 33 credit hours is the standard track required for this degree or 36-41 credits for the specialization in management. The students and faculty provide services to over 105,000 patients each year.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Masters in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Washington
    Seattle, WA

    The University of Washington founded the School of Dentistry in 1945. While the school offers a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degrees, the dental hygiene program is only available at the graduate level. The master’s program is a fast-track two-year program which requires approximately 70 credit hours and seven quarters of work. Topics covered include advanced study in oral pathology, oral histology, and oral biology. Since 2009, The School of Dentistry has been one of only three doctoral programs in the country that allows dental hygienists to maintain a focus on oral biology.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Masters in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Missouri
    Kansas City, MO

    In 1881, the Kansas City Dental College was merely a department in the university, but through academic growth, mergers, and new affiliations that small department has transformed into the School of Dentistry at the University of Missouri, currently the only dental school in the state of its kind. Available degree programs include the degree completion track, a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, and the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene. Students must have at least 58 general education credit hours completed to apply to the dental school.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Masters in Dental Hygiene
  • University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor, MI

    The Online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree gives students the opportunity to earn their master’s degree with flexibility, without having to relocate, but still comprises the experiential and educational background necessary to meet today's challenges of advanced dental hygiene requirements. This 36 credit-hour program can be completed in just 24 months as the courses are scheduled in an intense sequence. Each semester, students will enroll in two courses, earning 6 credit hours at each of the six contiguous program semesters. Credit transfers from other institutions are not accommodated.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average career span of a dental hygienist?

The career span of a dental hygienist may vary depending on an individual's circumstances, career goals, and level of job satisfaction. However, many dental hygienists are able to work in the field for many years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median age of dental hygienists was 44 in May 2019. The BLS also reports that dental hygienists have a relatively low unemployment rate and a high job outlook, with employment in the field expected to grow by 11% between 2019 and 2029. This suggests that dental hygienists are in high demand and are likely to have good job prospects over the next several years.

It is worth noting that what might make it more difficult for some dental hygienists to work in the field for an extended period of time are the physical demands of the job, such as working with small instruments and standing for long periods of time.

Is a dentist or hygienist more qualified?

Dentists and dental hygienists are both highly qualified professionals who play important roles in the field of dentistry. However, they have different levels of education and training, and therefore have different areas of expertise rather than different levels of expertise. Dentists are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of oral health problems including cavities, gum disease, and misaligned teeth and they perform procedures such as fillings, extractions, and root canals. Dental hygienists, on the other hand, are trained to clean teeth, remove plaque and tartar, and apply fluoride and other protective coatings to teeth. They are also trained to take x-rays and provide preventive care, such as teaching patients how to brush and floss properly.

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