Most dental hygienists earn an associate's degree in dental hygiene, though this article also offers information about schools in Virginia offering bachelor's degrees. Additionally, one school offers a master's degree for existing dental hygienists looking to pursue leadership opportunities in the field. Some courses may be available online. Some programs may have certain requirements for admission, such as completion of prerequisite courses, CPR certification, a clear background check, a medical examination and purchase of malpractice insurance. All of these programs include a combination of lecture courses and extensive clinical training.
Danville Community College
Located in Danville, the VWCC-partnered dental hygiene program at this community college combines classes via VTEL with hands-on clinical instruction in the college's own dental clinic. Students take courses in oral anatomy, head and neck anatomy, emergency management and dental hygiene, among others. The program is competitive, admitting 12 students every two years. Any student with a conviction for assault or a felony is ineligible for the program.
Germanna Community College
Graduates of the dental hygiene associate's degree program at Locust Grove-based Germanna Community College can take the national and regional dental hygiene board examinations or transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor's degree. The program is offered in conjunction with NVCC as a distance-learning partnership. Prerequisite courses include health science and college composition. While enrolled in the dental hygiene program, students take courses such as periodontics, pain and anxiety management, dental hygiene, oral radiology and pathology.
Lord Fairfax Community College
Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown offers a five-semester, distance-learning dental hygiene program in agreement with VWCC. Students learn how to clean teeth, carry out oral health assessments, perform X-rays and counsel patients. To be eligible for admission, prospective students must have completed high school or earned a GED, along with high school or college courses in biology and chemistry. Other prerequisites include completing a course in anatomy and physiology by the conclusion of the spring semester before starting the dental hygiene program.
Northern Virginia Community College
Students looking to enter the dental hygiene program at Northern Virginia Community College, located in Annandale, need to complete prerequisite courses such as health science, college composition and orientation to healthcare. Students in this 72-credit program take classes in oral radiography, oral anatomy and oral pathology, among others. The number of credits earned include those earned in prerequisite courses
Old Dominion University
Norfolk's Old Dominion University offers a bachelor's degree program in dental hygiene. The first two years of the program are made up of general education and prerequisite courses. Students spend the second two years completing classes in dental science, oral health, dental hygiene theory and research methodology. Several clinical facilities are available for students to complete clinical courses, such as the university's own on-site facility, as well as the Hampton Veterans' Administration Medical Center, Chesapeake Cares, the American Red Cross Dental Clinic and the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
Old Dominion University also offers three other dental hygiene programs. The Bachelor of Science (BS) Completion program is for practicing dental hygienists who have earned an associate's degree or certificate from accredited dental hygiene programs who want to earn a bachelor's degree. The Master of Science (MS) program is geared for dental hygiene professionals looking to take on leadership roles. Students can choose to focus on education, research, administration and management, marketing or community health. The accelerated BS to MS program allows students to earn both degrees in a shorter time than it would take to complete the BS and MS programs separately.
Thomas Nelson Community College
The dental hygiene program at Thomas Nelson Community College is offered at the school's triangle campus in Williamsburg, where the school has its Dental Hygiene Patient Clinic. The clinic offers students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience providing oral health services while under the supervision of faculty members. Before students can be eligible for admission to this program, they must complete prerequisite courses such as microbiology, anatomy and physiology, public speaking and college composition. Once accepted into the program, students begin learning about histology, emergency management, oral pathology, nutrition and other topics.
Virginia Commonwealth University
The bachelor's degree program in dental hygiene at Richmond-based Virginia Commonwealth University prepares students for providing ethical, patient-centered care. It offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines behavioral, biomedical and clinical sciences. To be eligible for admission into the program, students must complete two years of liberal arts education, with at least 60 semester hours of course credits. Typical core classes include dental hygiene theory, nutrition, community dental health, ethics and anatomy. With its location in the university's dental school, the program enables students to work with experienced dentists, nationally recognized faculty members and a culturally diverse array of patients.
Virginia Western Community College
Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke offers an associate's degree program in dental hygiene that prepares students for careers as primary preventive oral health care providers. Students take a combination of general education courses, such as anatomy and physiology, psychology and college composition, and core courses, such as dental hygiene theory, oral pathology and pharmacology. Although the program is designed to prepare students for entering the workforce, the college does have articulation agreements with several four-year institutions that may enable students to transfer to another school's bachelor's degree program.
All dental hygienists in the U.S. must be licensed to practice, with requirements varying from state to state. Virginia requires aspiring dental hygienists to complete an accredited dental hygiene program and take the National Board Examination and the exam administered by the Virginia Board of Dentistry. All of the schools profiled below offer programs that allow graduates to take the required exams.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Dental Hygiene Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)|
|Danville Community College||2-year, public; distant town||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$4,365 in-state; $10,203 out-of-state*|
|Germanna Community College||2-year, public; fringe rural||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$4,560 in-state; $10,398 out-of-state*|
|Lord Fairfax Community College||2-year, public; fringe rural||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$4,424 in-state; $10,262 out-of-state*|
|Northern Virginia Community College||2-year, public; large suburb||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$5,138 in-state, $11,055 out-of-state*|
|Old Dominion University||4-year, public; midsize city|| Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene,
BS in Dental Hygiene Completion Program,
Master of Science in Dental Hygiene,
BS to MS Accelerated Degree in Dental Hygiene
|$9,480 in-state; $26,220 out-of-state*|
|Thomas Nelson Community College||2-year, public; midsize city||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$4,416 in-state; $10,254 out-of-state*|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||4-year, public; midsize city||Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene||$12,772 in-state; $31,464 out-of-state*|
|Virginia Western Community College||2-year, public; small city||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene||$4,713 in-state; $10,551 out-of-state*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator.