Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Old Dominion University's School of Dental Hygiene is committed to the preparation of dental hygienists for accountable leadership roles in today's health system. Our innovative curriculum leading to the Master of Science degree places emphasis on dental hygiene, with options for education, administration/management, research, marketing and community health. Through academic courses, independent study, research and practical experience, graduate candidates are prepared to meet the present demand for dental hygiene leaders, practitioners, educators, oral health promoters, administrators/managers and researchers.

Program Overview

Our mission is to attract, educate and graduate women and men who are prepared intellectually, technically, interprofessionally and ethically to solve the oral health care challenges of the 21st century. We are committed to excellence in education, practice, management, technologies and research. Our purpose is to create an educational environment that fosters the development of life-long learning, outstanding citizens and leaders, and oral health care professionals who can provide ethical, comprehensive, evidence-based care to diverse groups and individuals in a variety of settings. To achieve this mission, the School of Dental Hygiene supports efforts for personal and professional growth of the faculty, staff and students.

Our program graduates competent and ethical dental hygienists who:

  • Make evidence-based decisions within the dental hygiene process of care and legal scope of practice and professional code of ethics.
  • Advance the five roles of the professional dental hygienist: clinician, educator/oral health promoter, researcher, advocate, manager.
  • Acquire specialization in one of the key areas of education, community health, administration/management, research, marketing, or modeling and simulation.
  • Acquire initial competence in conducting interprofessional and multi-professional oral health research.
  • Are lifelong learners, users of technology and discriminating consumers of information.
  • Employ leadership strategies for improving the oral health of people and advancing the dental hygiene profession worldwide.
  • Advance the knowledge, values, and influence of the profession.
  • Acquire a foundation for doctoral-level education.

Formal admission to the University is an initial requirement for admission to the Master of Science Degree Program. Applications for graduate admission may be obtained from the Office of Admissions, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0050, 757-683-3685online, or by calling toll-free 1-800-348-7926.

The following documents must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions:

  1. Application and official transcripts to the Office of Graduate Admissions, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0050.
  2. Scores from the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination Note: International dental hygiene students who have not graduated from a CODA accredited dental hygiene program and who do not have National Board Dental Hygiene scores, will be considered for admission.
  3. Two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  4. Formal written statement of personal goals and objectives.
  5. International applicants must present satisfactory evidence of competence in English by submitting score of at least 550 on the TOEFL.
  6. GRE or Millers Analogy scores (only if you are interested in competing for a University Fellowship).
  7. Possession of a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene or a related field and, in the latter case, have completed an accredited certificate or associate degree program in dental hygiene.
  8. Evidence of an undergraduate overall quality point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).

International applicants should contact the Office of International Students and Scholar Services at (757) 683-3701 regarding immigration or financial concerns.

Academic Common Market: Applicants who are legal residents of Mississippi, South Carolina, Delaware, or Kentucky may qualify as academic common market students and obtain in-state tuition rates.

International Students
Graduate International Admissions

Click here for more information about Admissions

For questions and information about the M.S.D.H program, contact:
Denise Claiborne, PhD, RDH, Graduate Program Director

The program varies based upon the candidate. If a candidate selects the thesis option, 37 hours of coursework must be completed. If the candidate selects the non-thesis option, 34 hours of coursework must be completed. Candidates who are interested in part-time study have up to 6 years to complete the degree. Courses are offered online and face-to-face. Online students may only register for the non-thesis option.

Up to 12 graduate credit hours can be taken as electives at a University near your home, and then transferred to ODU. Courses such as DNTH698 Research, DNTH699 Thesis, DNTH668 Practicum and DNTH614 Externship, can be arranged so that you do not need to be on campus. Up to 6 graduate credits can be awarded as experiential credit. Courses are offered online and face-to-face. Online students may only register for the non-thesis option.

Students in both the thesis and non-thesis take a core requirement of 19 credits and a 9 credit specialty area. Areas of specialization include education, administration/management, research, marketing, and community health. Once the area of specialization is determined, then courses are selected each semester to support the area of specialization. Even research, thesis, and practical are designed with the specialization in mind.

Graduate level course credits from any accredited institution of higher learning are transferable if a grade of "B" or better is earned. To determine if there is a match with the required and elective courses for the Master of Science Degree, Concentration in Dental Hygiene, the student needs to submit an official transcript with a University Application to the Office of Admissions for an evaluation of the courses. You can also communicate with Denise Claiborne, the Graduate Program Director, for an unofficial determination at 757-683-5949 or at

Please refer to 'How to Apply' section above for admission procedures and requirements.

The thesis option is a more research-oriented program. This option is considered essential for those students who are interested in preparing themselves as University faculty, continuing their studies at the doctoral level, or wishing to pursue research training. Candidates interested in teaching in the community college setting or in sales and marketing may be more interested in the non-thesis option.

Alumni of the Master of Science, Concentration in Dental Hygiene Program hold faculty positions throughout the nation and in other countries; several are directors of dental hygiene programs; others work in the oral health products industry in sales, marketing, research, public health, and management; some have gone onto dental school and are now practicing dentists; some are enrolled in doctoral studies; some work in a variety of positions within the state and federal government; and some are entrepreneurs.

Individuals in the program enroll because they believe that they can make a larger contribution to healthcare and dental hygiene with advanced education. They come from all over the nation and the world to design unique programs of graduate study to meet their diverse career goals and aspirations.

Old Dominion University's School of Dental Hygiene is committed to the preparation of dental hygienists in a multicultural environment for accountable leadership roles in today's health system. Toward this end, it offers an innovative curriculum leading to the Master of Science degree with an emphasis in dental hygiene, and specialization options in education, administration/management, research, marketing, and community health. Through academic courses, independent study, research and practical experience. Graduate candidates are prepared to meet the present demand for dental hygiene leaders as practitioners, educators, oral advocates, change agents, administrators/managers, and researchers. Regardless of specialization, students can work at the Dental Hygiene Research Center to develop their investigational skills.

Within a multidisciplinary framework that interrelates theory, research and practical experience, the program integrates the goals and career aspirations of the graduate candidate with the current issues of dental hygiene, healthcare and society.

A major advantage of graduate study in dental hygiene is the atmosphere of intellectual independence and creativity and interdisciplinary interactions fostered within the collegiality of other scholars and professionals. Students work on a one-to-one basis with faculty who are recognized nationally and internationally as leaders. With these faculty, students conduct research, develop theory, prepare professional presentations and manuscripts for publication, acquire a foundation for doctoral study, and are socialized to the meaning of scholarship. The College also offers a PhD in Health Services Research program, which is available to qualified dental hygienists wishing to pursue a doctoral degree. Contact Dr. Bonnie Van Lunen at for information on the doctoral program.

Old Dominion University offers financial assistance to qualified students. Assistance is awarded as grants and scholarships which do not need to be repaid, or as loans and employment carriers which need to be repaid. The general type of aid for which students may qualify are federal and state aid, work-study employment, University scholarships, and outside agency awards. Money is limited and chances of aid are affected by student need and timeliness of application for aid.

Students have completed internships with the American Red Cross, Philips Oral Healthcare, The Conrad Clinical Research Center, Eastern Virginia Medical Center, Naval Dental Center- Mid-Atlantic Region, Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Children's Dental Health Project in Washington, DC; just to name a few of the various projects.

No, students can start the master's degree program in August, January or May. Although course sequencing is best when the program is started in August.

Dental hygienists who hold a certificate or associates degree may be eligible for the Linked B.S.D.H. to M.S. Program. Please contact Amber Hunt at to determine your eligibility.

Old Dominion University has a policy of training all graduate students in the fundamentals of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). This policy was adopted with the understanding that the knowledge and philosophy presented in the RCR training can enhance the professional development of all students, regardless of discipline.

All graduate students must complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Social and Behavioral Responsible Conduct of Research training modules. Completion of the RCR modules will be tracked through the CITI website and must be completed within twelve months after first enrolling and renewed annually.