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Earning a bachelor’s degree can lead to many career opportunities outside of clinical dental hygiene practice. 


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Are you suffering from work-related stress injuries and considering a career change? Do you dream of working for an oral health product manufacturer or a public health agency? Do sales, marketing, or academics spark your interest? If so, enrolling in a baccalaureate degree completion program may be the right step for you.

Many dental hygienists consider jobs outside of clinical hygiene practice during their professional careers. Dental hygienists with an associate’s degree may think about getting a bachelor’s degree but, historically, the number of baccalaureate degree dental hygiene programs in the

United States has been very limited. The good news is that earning a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is more attainable than ever before in the history of dental hygiene.

What Options Are Available With a Bachelor’s Degree?
The number of expanded roles available in dental hygiene continues to grow. See Table 1 for the American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s (ADHA) list of expanded roles for dental hygienists.2 Opportunities are also available in marketing and sales, publishing, consulting, and in small business. A career in the majority of these requires a bachelor’s degree.

Clinical dental hygiene is a very profitable, rewarding, and flexible career. However, the infamous burn out and work-related stress injuries, eg, carpal tunnel syndrome, make it very demanding on a daily basis. A bachelor’s degree can open up further opportunities for dental hygienists who wish to remain in the field but do not want to practice clinical dental hygiene any longer. Waring1 reported that the top five reasons students were pursuing an advanced degree were: personal satisfaction, increased knowledge and skill, career advancement, to improve patient care, and the status of an advanced degree.

Are there positions available in these expanded roles? Definitely. The dental hygiene education system is in crisis now because replacements do not exist for retiring dental educators. New associate degree programs are continually opening. With the relatively small number of available baccalaureate and master degree programs, there are not enough educators to meet the need generated by these new programs. The statistics for this educator crisis are alarming. In 2000, the American Dental Education Association President’s Task Force on Future Dental School Faculty concluded that dental education is now in crisis.3 The faculty shortage will hurt students as well the furthering of scientific advancements for the improvement of oral health. The task force found that only 0.5% of dental students graduating in 1999 planned to pursue education as a career. At the time of the study in 2000, the task force found that almost 400 faculty positions in American dental schools were unfilled.

Similar faculty shortages in dental hygiene education exist. The American Dental Education Association Task Force on Allied Dental Faculty surveyed existing dental hygiene programs and found: 61% of the programs preferred a bachelor’s degree for faculty; 47% preferred a master’s degree; 17% of the programs who responded had a full-time position unfilled; 20% of the programs currently had a part-time position unfilled; and 68% of the programs anticipated the need for replacement of a full-time faculty member in the next 5 years.4 

Selecting a Program
Although there are currently about 60 bachelor degree completion programs in the

United States , data on how students fare in these programs are limited. The existing degree completion programs vary from those held on-site, to a hybrid of on-site requirements mixed with distance education, or totally distance education. Distance education is when education occurs with the student and teacher in different locations, thus communicating either via televideo or over the Internet. There are a variety of education offerings including full-time, part-time, and/or programs that allow you to customize your education. Following are key factors to consider when choosing the best program for you.

1. Time and cost considerations. In 1991, Waring found that the most likely participant in a degree completion program averaged 34 years of age, was a married woman with children still living at home, and was able to study on a part-time basis only.1 Among the concerns noted by those surveyed were cost, time commitment, and family obligations.

When determining what type of program to pursue, the financial aspects are important. Are you prepared to reduce your clinical practice in order to attend classes during the day or to attend full time? Is the program affordable for you, even with reduced clinical practice time?

While considering costs, find out if the program requires residency. Does the program charge more for tuition if you live in another state and are taking the program at a distance? Does the college offer a waiver for out-of-state students?

2. Study skills and stress management. Workload and stress management should be considered when returning to school. Some returning college students find the transition somewhat challenging after being accustomed to having evenings and weekends free from study.5 Ask the program administrators if study skill courses or stress management programs are available. Also, you need to discuss your educational plans and goals with your family and identify support systems. Additionally, find out if the program offers any flexibility in the curriculum should some personal emergency arise.

Table 1. Expanded Roles for Dental Hygienists


• Teaches in dental hygiene and dental school programs.
• Provides continuing education seminars.
• Writes/edits educational materials.
• Acts as educational consultant to
dental companies.

• Acts as dental professional consultant with dental product companies.
• Holds administrative positions in education, public health, hospitals, or professional associations.
• Works as a sales associate.
• Owns a dental personnel placement/temporary service.
• Processes dental insurance claims.
• Evaluates and modifies health education or health care programs.
• Identifies and manages resources.
• Is an independent contractor.

• Writes grant proposals.
• Collects and analyzes data.
• Develops research methodology.
• Conducts research surveys.
• Conducts clinical research.
• Writes scientific papers for publication.

Consumer Advocate
• Assists consumer groups in obtaining access to care.
• Develops networking systems to bring existing health care needs and available resources together.
• Advises consumers on various insurance policies, commercial products, political issues affecting oral health, and criteria for evaluating professional services.

Change Agent
• Influences business and government agencies to support health care efforts.
• Acts as a lobbyist.
• Advocates dental health programs for individuals, families, or communities.
• Is a legal consultant (malpractice review, expert witness). 

3. Type of program. Multiple studies have documented that students taking a course or program at a distance need to be self-directed, motivated, self-paced, and not procrastinators.6-10 If you are not this type of student, you may want to consider a program that requires class attendance and has courses in lecture or discussion format.

Internet-related courses tend to have a slightly higher attrition rate,11,12 which may be related to computer literacy problems. One of the largest hurdles for students in degree completion programs is computer competency. Most programs require students to do word processing, use email, and research on the Web. Another reason for the higher rate may be the lack of personal motivation to log-on and keep up with the course, as opposed to attending a class in person.

However, programs offered via the Internet or televideo have definite advantages. Research shows that on-line classes typically involve much more student interaction, both with faculty and other classmates, than the traditional classroom.13,14 Students taking on-line classes tend to feel they are one-on-one with the instructor.15 On-line learners report better understanding of the materials due to the collaboration with peers.16

Recent surveys done at Purdue University found no statistically significant difference in grades between telecourses and conventional instruction.17 Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign comparing online course and conventional instruction found no statistically significant differences in grades and satisfaction between the two modes of instruction.18

Students must make choices about how they prefer to learn based on a combination of life circumstances, comfort with technology, convenience, self-motivation, and time available to take courses.20 

Table 2. Bachelor Degree Completion Programs 


Northern Arizona University,
College of Health Professions, Flagstaff
Marge Reveal, RDH, MS, MBA
Phone: (928) 523-0520
Fax: (928) 523-6195
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Southern California School of
Dentistry, Los Angeles
Diane Melrose, RDH, BS
Phone: (213) 740-1089
Fax: (213) 740-1094
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Bridgeport Fones School of
Dental Hygiene, Bridgeport
Meg Zayan, RDH, BS, MPH
Phone: (203) 576-4138
Fax: (203) 576-4220
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of New Haven College of Arts &
Sciences, West Haven
Sandra D’Amato Palumbo, RDH, MS
Phone: (203) 931-6029
Fax: (203) 931-6083
Degree Completion: BSDH

Armstrong Atlantic State University,
College of Health Professions, Savannah

Barb ara G. Tanenbaum, RDH, EdD
Phone: (912) 921-7432
Fax: (912) 921-7466
Degree Completion: BSDH

Clayton College & State University
School of Health Sciences, Morrow
Susan I. Duley, RDH, EdD, LPC
Phone: (770) 961-3596
Fax: (770) 961-3639
Degree Completion: BASDH/BSDH

Medical College of Georgia School of Allied
Health Sciences, Augusta
Marie A. Collins, RDH, MS
Phone: (706) 721-2938
Fax: (706) 721-8857
Degree Completion: BSDH
Valdosta Technical College, Valdosta
Renee C. Graham, RDH, BSEd
Phone: (229) 245-3716
Fax: (229) 259-5567
Degree Completion: BSED

Southern Illinois University College of
Applied Sciences & Art, Carbondale
Dwayne Summers, DMD
Phone: (618) 453-7260
Fax: (618) 453-7020
Degree Completion: BSDH

Indiana University Northwest School of
Nursing and Health Professions, Gary
Juanita Robinson, CDA, EFDA, LDH, MSEd
Phone: (219) 980-6734
Fax: (219) 981-4249
Degree Completion: BS

Indiana University School of Dentistry,
Nancy Young, RDH, MEd
Phone: (317) 274-7801
Fax: (317) 274-2419
Degree Completion: BSDH

Indiana University, South Bend
Nanci G. Yokom, RDH, MBA
Phone: (574) 237-4154
Fax: (574) 237-4854
Degree Completion: BSGS, BS

University of Southern Indiana School of
Nursing and Health Professions, Evansville
Deborah L. Carl, RDH, MEd
Phone: (812) 464-1707
Fax: (812) 465-7092
Degree Completion: BS

Iowa Western Community College/Creighton University, Council Bluffs
Janet L. Hillis, RDH
Phone: (712) 325-3738
Fax: (712) 325-3736
Degree Completion: BSDH

Wichita State University College of Health
Denise Maseman, RDH, MS
Phone: (316) 978-3614
Fax: (316) 978-5459
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Louisville School of Dentistry
Susan Crim, RDH
Phone: (502) 852-1229
Fax: (502) 852-1317
Degree Completion: BSDH

Western Kentucky University, Bowling
Douglas W. Schutte, DDS
Phone: (270) 745-2427
Fax: (270) 745-6869
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Louisiana College of Health
Sciences, Monroe
Beverly B. Jarrell, RDH, BS, MEd
Phone: (318) 342-1621
Fax: (318) 342-1687
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Maine at Augusta, College of
Mathematics & Professional Studies, Bangor
Ann E. Curtis, RD, RDH, MS, CAS
Phone: (207) 262-7870
Fax: (207) 262-7871
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of New England College of
Health Professions, Portland
Bernice Mills, RDH, MS
Phone: (207) 797-7261, ext 4314
Fax: (207) 878-4889
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Maryland Dental School, Baltimore
Jacquelyn Fried, RDH, MS
Phone: (410) 706-7773
Fax: (410) 706-0349
Degree Completion: BSDH

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy &
Health Sciences Forsyth Dental Hygiene
Program, Boston
Christine A. Dominick, RDH, BS, MEd
Phone: (617) 262-5200, ext 229
Fax: (617) 456-0787
Degree Completion: BSDH

Mount Ida College, Newton Centre
Robin Matloff, RDH, JD
Phone: (617) 928-7346
Fax: (617) 928-7370
Degree Completion: BLS/BS

Baker College, Port Huron
Sheree L. Duff, RDH, MS
Phone: (810) 985-7000, ext 105
Fax: (810) 985-7066
Degree Completion: BA

University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit
Judi Luxmore, RDH, MS
Phone: (313) 494-6628
Fax: (313) 494-6666
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor
Susan Pritzel, RDH, MA
Phone: (734) 763-3373
Fax: (734) 763-5503
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Kathleen J. Newell, RDH, PhD
Phone: (612) 625-9121
Fax: (612) 626-6096
Degree Completion: BS

University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Health Related Professions, Jackson
Beckie Barry, RDH, MEd
Phone: (601) 984-6310
Fax: (601) 815-1717
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Dentistry
Kimberly Bray, RDH, MS
Director Graduate/Degree Completion
Phone: (816) 235-2056
Fax: (816) 235-2157
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Nebraska Medical College
of Dentistry, Lincoln
Gwen L. Hlava, RDH, MS
Phone: (402) 472-1433
Fax: (402) 472-6681
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Health Related Professions, Newark
Carolyn Breen, EdD
Phone: (908) 889-2419
Fax: (908) 889-2710
Degree Completion: BS, BA

University of New Mexico Health Sciences
Center, Albuquerque
Demetra Logothetis, RDH, MS
Phone: (505) 272-4513
Fax: (505) 272-5584
Degree Completion: BSDH

Farmingdale State University of New York,
Laura Mueller-Joseph, RDH, MS, EdD
Phone: (631) 420-2388
Fax: (631) 420-2582
Degree Completion: BSDH

New York University College of Dentistry,
New York
Cheryl M. Westphal, RDH, MS
Phone: (212) 998-9390
Fax: (212) 995-4593
Degree Completion: BSDH

The University of North Carolina School of
Dentistry, Chapel Hill
Mary C. George, BS, MEd
Phone: (919) 966-2800
Fax: (919) 966-6761
Degree Completion: BSDH

Ohio State University, Columbus,
Patricia Gardner, BA, MA
Phone: (614) 292-2228
Fax: (614) 292-8013
Degree Completion: BSDH
Youngstown State University, Youngstown

Dr. Madeline Haggerty
Phone: (330) 941-1766
Fax: (330) 742-2921
Degree Completion: BS

University of Oklahoma College of
Dentistry, Oklahoma City
Patricia J. Nunn, RDH, MS
Phone: (405) 271-4435
Fax: (405) 271-4785
Degree Completion: BSDH

Oregon Institute of Technology School of
Health, Arts, and Sciences
Klamath Falls
Jill Torres, RDH, MEd
Associate Professor
Phone: (541) 885-1366
Fax: (541) 885-1849
Degree Completion: BSDH

Pennsylvania College of Technology School
of Health Sciences, Williamsport
Kathleen E. Morr, RDH, MS
Phone: (570) 326-3761, ext 8007
Fax: (570) 320-2401
Degree Completion: BS

University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
Angelina E. Riccelli, RDH, MS
Phone: (412) 648-8432
Fax: (412) 383-8737
Degree Completion: BSDH

East Tennessee State University, College
of Public & Allied Health, Johnson City
Rebecca Nunley, RDH, DDS
Phone: (423) 439-4501
Fax: (423) 439-5238
Degree Completion: BSDH

Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, School of Allied Health Professions, Nashville
Marian Williams Patton, RDH, EdD
Phone: (615) 963-5801
Fax: (615) 963-5836
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Tennessee, College of Allied Health Sciences, Memphis
Elaine Freiden, RDH, BS
Phone: (901) 448-3038
Fax: (901) 448-7545
Degree Completion: BS

Texas Woman's University, College of
Health Sciences, Denton
Carolyn Ray, RDH, MEd
Phone: (940) 898-2870
Fax: (940) 898-2869
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Texas Health Science Center, School of Allied Health Sciences, San Antonio
Juanita S. Wallace, RDH, PhD
Phone: (210) 567-8820, ext 8826
Fax: (210) 567-8843
Degree Completion: BSDH

Weber State University College of Health
Professions, Ogden
Stephanie Bossenberger James, RDH, MS
Phone: (801) 626-6451
Fax: (801) 626-7304
Degree Completion: BSDH

Old Dominion University College of Health Sciences Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene, Norfolk
Deanne Shuman, BSDH, MS, PhD
Phone: (757) 683-3338
Fax: (757) 683-5239
Degree Completion: BSDH

Clark College/Eastern Washington College of Science, Mathematics and Technology, Vancouver
Brenda Knutson, RDH, MSEd
Phone: (360) 992-2528
Fax: (360) 992-2880
Degree Completion: BSDH

Eastern Washington University at Pierce College, College of Science, Math and Technology, Lakewood
Monica Hospenthal, RDH, MEd
Phone: (253) 912-3642
Fax: (253) 964-6313
Degree Completion: BSDH

Shoreline Community College/Eastern Washington University, College of Science, Mathematics and Technology, Seattle
Karen Barter, RDH, BS
Phone: (206) 546-4711
Fax: (206) 546-5830
Degree Completion: BSDH

University of Washington School of Dentistry, Seattle
Norma Wells, BS, RDH, MPH
Phone: (206) 543-5820, ext 20
Fax: (206) 685-4258
Degree Completion: BSDH

West Liberty State College School of Science/Health Sciences, West Liberty
Margaret J. Six, RDH, MS
Phone: (304) 336-8117
Fax: (304) 336-8905
Degree Completion: BSDH

West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Morgantown
Christina B. DeBiase, BSDH, MA, EdD
Phone: (304) 293-3417
Fax: (304) 293-4882
Degree Completion: BSDH

*Adapted from the American Dental
Hygienists’ Association. Available at:

3. Program requirements. The majority of dental hygiene courses taught in colleges and technical schools are similar since all programs must meet the same accreditation standards established by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. However, the most common difference between associate degrees and baccalaureate degrees is the upper division requirements. These typically range from 45 to 80 credits. You need to investigate how those upper division credits are obtained. Some programs simply have students find filler courses, while others use these credits to allow students to select a specific education track such as teaching, administration, research, and/or grant writing.

Table 3.Master of Science In Dental Hygiene Degree Programs 


University of Maryland Dental School, College of Dental Surgery, Baltimore
M. Elaine Parker, RDH, PhD
Phone: (410) 706-7773
Fax: (410) 706-0349

University of Michigan, School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor
Wendy Kerschbaum, RDH, MA, MPH
Phone: (734) 763-3392
Fax: (734) 763-5503

University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Dentistry
Kimberly Bray, RDH, MS
Phone: (816) 235-2056
Fax: (816) 235-2157

The University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, Chapel Hill
Rebecca Wilder, RDH, MS
Phone: (919) 966-2800
Fax: (919) 966-6761

Baylor College of Dentistry, Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, a component of Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, Dallas
Marylou E. Gutmann, RDH, MA
Phone: (214) 828-8406
Fax: (214) 828-8196

University of Texas Health Science Center, School of Allied Health Sciences, San Antonio
Juanita S. Wallace, RDH, PhD
MS Program Director, Department Chair
Phone: (210) 567-8820, ext 8826
Fax: (210) 567-8843

Old Dominion University, College of Health Sciences, G. W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene, Norfolk
Michele Darby, RDH, BSDH, MS
Phone: (757) 683-5232
Fax: (757) 683-5239

West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Morgantown
Christina B. DeBiase, BSDH, MA, EdD
Phone: (304) 293-3417
Fax: (304) 293-4882

*Adapted from the American Dental
Hygienists’ Association. Available at:

Often universities require graduates to have completed at least two levels of English composition as well as college level mathematics. Many community college dental hygiene graduates may have only taken one English composition course and only intermediate algebra for a mathematics requirement. There is a trend for community colleges to include these additional requirements in their curriculum to prepare graduates for easy entry into bachelor’s degree completion programs.

Some universities also have special course requirements in cultural diversity and international studies. Find out how these credits are earned. Are they part of the degree completion curriculum or are they additional courses?

Finally, you need to know if the program maximizes the transfer of credits you have already earned in your dental hygiene associate degree or certificate program.

How to Get Started
Consider programs offered in your state of residence to avoid out-of-state tuition. If there is not a program located near your home, consider a totally on-line program. Don’t be afraid to dive in and begin. There may never be a better or more convenient time to begin your bachelor’s degree.

Rebecca Stolberg, RDH, MS, is chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene at Eastern Washington University, 

Spokane. She can be reached at or (509) 368-6528.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. January 2004;2(1):28-30. 


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