2011 Health Sciences Building

Master of Science - Dental Hygiene


Denise M. Claiborne, PhD, RDH, Graduate Program Director

The challenge of effecting change in the scope and direction of dental hygiene and health care requires competencies in collaborative problem solving, evidence-based  ethical decision making, and leadership.

Recipients of the Master of Science degree in dental hygiene develop skills to meet complex national and global health challenges in interprofessional education, knowledge-generation, information transfer, and health care for all members of society. Within a multidisciplinary, multicultural curricular framework that integrates theory, research, and practical experience, the competency-based program links goals and career aspirations of the student with relevant learning experiences, technologies, and resources to facilitate career advancement. Through specialized skills training, graduates are prepared to assume leadership roles necessary for quality professional dental hygiene care and advancing knowledge and practice.

Solutions to complex health problems need the participation of dental hygienists educated in community health, research, management, education, public policy, and advocacy, just to name a few. Therefore, the program offers distinct specialty areas in which students may specialize: education, administration/management, research, marketing, community health, global health and modeling and simulation. Although graduate education focuses on developing a specialty, such specialization is viewed as secondary to generating evidence-based knowledge and theory through research. Demand for master’s level dental hygienists in these key areas of specialization continues to be strong and students are able to develop competencies essential in today’s employment market.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the graduate program director to obtain additional information regarding requirements, experiential credit, cognate offerings, travel abroad, practica and externship opportunities. The program is available on campus, online, or as a hybrid of the two. Up to 12 approved graduate credit hours may be taken at another university and applied toward degree requirements, making this program one of the most flexible in the nation. The student-focused, nationally and internationally recognized faculty are committed to the educational preparation of dental hygienists leading to degrees at advanced levels; and the opportunity to segue to doctoral education in health services research within the College of Health Sciences.

Admission Information

To qualify for admission, the applicant must possess a certificate or associate degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and a baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene or a related field. International students who have graduated from a dental hygiene program, other than a CODA accredited dental hygiene program, will be considered on an individual basis. Students who have graduated from an international dental hygiene program, with a 3.0 GPA equivalent or higher (on a 4.0 scale), must take and pass a SODH clinical competency examination to be considered for acceptance into the MSDH program. The applicant must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.80 (on a 4.00 scale) in undergraduate education and a minimum of 3.00 in the undergraduate dental hygiene major.

For consideration, the documents listed below must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions, Old Dominion University,  Rollins Hall, Norfolk, VA 23529. 
International Students must submit their documents for consideration to the Office of International Admissions, Old Dominion University,  2101 Dragas Hall, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Students can apply online at the Office of Admissions website.
Visit: International Admissions at
Visit: VISA & Immigration Services Advising at:

  1. Graduate Application.
  2. Scores from the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination Note: International dental hygiene students who have not graduated from an CODA accredited dental hygiene program and who do not have National Board Dental Hygiene scores, will be considered for admission on a case-by-case basis. A current active dental hygiene license in at least one state may be submitted for national board scores; consult with the graduate program director.
  3. Recommendation from previous dental hygiene clinical supervisor and dental hygiene program director.
  4. Two letters of recommendation from academic sources.
  5. Written statement of personal goals and objectives related to the anticipated degree.
  6. International applicants must present satisfactory evidence of competence in English by submitting score of at least 550 on the TOEFL, 79 on the TOEFL iBT or 6.5 or higher on IELTS.
  7. GRE or Millers Analogy scores (only if you are interested in competing for a University Fellowship).
  8. 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.
  9. Evidence of an undergraduate overall quality point average of at least 2.8 and an average in the dental hygiene major of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
  10. Official transcripts of all college work.

Applicants whose qualifications are slightly below the required level will be considered for admission to provisional status and may be required to take additional course work. Students who have not graduated from a CODA accredited program, with a 3.0 GPA equivalent or better, must take and pass a SODH clinical competency examination to be considered for acceptance into the MSDH program.

The master's degree program is available under the Southern Regional Education Board's (SREB) Academic Common Market. Applicants who are legal residents of Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, or South Carolina may enroll, if accepted, as Academic Common Market students at in-state tuition rates. Students also may be required to take undergraduate courses or non-credit courses to make-up deficiencies in other areas.

For additional information, visit

Degree Requirements

Students must complete all courses within a six-year time period with a minimum GPA of a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Students must also successfully present and defend a thesis research or non-thesis project and pass an oral comprehensive examination. Students not graduating from the BSDH program at Old Dominion University must also pass a comprehensive writing examination.

Thesis degree requirements include a minimum of 34 semester hours.
Non-Thesis degree requirements include a minimum of 37 semester hours.

Curriculum Core Requirements. All core requirements may be taken on campus, online or hybrid. Candidates are required to fulfill a 22 credit hour core requirement to include:

Core Courses22
Educational Concepts for the Health Professional I
Research Methods in the Health Sciences
Administrative Leadership and Professional Development
Clinical Administration and Teaching
Educational Concepts for the Health Professional II
Statistical Reasoning for the Health Professions
Introduction to Applied Statistics and Data Analysis
Specialty Areas (Sample Courses; others may apply) Courses Subject to Availability6-12
Principles of Professional Counseling and Ethics
Counseling and Psychotherapy Techniques
The Management of Learning and Instruction
Foundations of Instructional Technology
Foundations of Distance Education
Instructional Gaming: Theories and Practice
Instructional Design Theory
Organizational Management
Issues in Human Resource Management
Legal and Ethical Foundations of Public Administration
Administration of Human Services
Qualitative Research Methods
Measurement of Health Phenomena
Research Design and Evaluation in the Health Professions
Decision Analysis in Health Care
Developing Grants and Contracts in Health Professions
Marketing Management
Global Marketing Management
Health Care Marketing
Social Marketing for Health Populations
Community/Public Health
Health Economics
Policy and Politics of Health
Introduction to Health Services
School Community Relations and Politics
Environmental Sciences for Public Health Practice
Introduction to Public Health Practice
Social and Behavioral Sciences for Public Health
Policy and Politics of Health
Modeling and Simulation (Certificate Option) 12 hrs (2 core courses)
Introduction to Modeling and Simulation
Decision Analysis in Health Care
Two additional electives as determined by Modeling and Simulation Program Coordinator
Global Health (Certificate Option) 15 hrs
Health Management
Global Health
Elective courses (4 credit hrs) As determined by Director of Global Health
Practicum (2 credit hours) As determined by Director of Global Health
Non-Thesis and Thesis Option
DNTH 698Research3
Thesis Option requires the addition of DNTH 699
DNTH 699Thesis3
Total Hours 34-37

Thesis Option. (34 credit hours).  This option requires original thesis research and writing for a total minimum program requirement of 34 credit hours and is considered essential for students interested in developing investigative and data management skills. The student is encouraged to become familiar with possible research areas soon after admission and contact the graduate program director to discuss the research proposal, funding options and the selection of the thesis committee. The student will be provided with a committee consisting of the thesis advisor and two other faculty members selected by the graduate program director and the student. Prior to beginning the research, the student will present a written proposal to the thesis committee for approval.  Candidates choosing the thesis option must satisfactorily complete the thesis at least four weeks prior to graduation with copies delivered to the thesis committee. An oral comprehensive examination and thesis defense will be conducted by the student's thesis committee during the last four weeks of the semester prior to graduation. The cost of the thesis is a student expense. The thesis option is not available to distance learning (on-line) students.

Non-Thesis Option. (37 credit hours). Candidates are required to complete: DNTH 698 (3 credits) and a minimum of three (3) additional credits of approved elective course work. This option is designed for students pursuing a less research-oriented program of study. A student in this program is required to complete an in-depth literature or systematic review, or execute a modest project as approved by the faculty. An oral comprehensive examination and project defense will be conducted prior to graduation.

Writing Proficiency Examination. Students who do not hold an undergraduate degree from Old Dominion University are required to participate in diagnostic writing exercises for evaluation by the staff of the Writing Center. Each student is responsible for making an appointment with the Writing Center to complete and pass this requirement early in the first semester of graduate study. Students deemed deficient in writing skills will be required to remedy their deficiency through the services of the Writing Center prior to the completion of 12 graduate credits. Students who fail to participate in the diagnostic writing exercise or to complete recommended developmental work through the Writing Center will not be allowed to register for subsequent semesters.  All faculty members in the school require written assignments, which will be evaluated on the basis of form and content. If needed, resources are available through the Writing Center. Graduate students and faculty employ the current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association as the standard reference text for written assignments within the School of Dental Hygiene.

Linked Bachelor’s to Master’s Program

Dental hygiene students who have a 3.25 grade point average from each institution attended and who have senior standing may apply to the linked bachelor’s to master’s program. This program allows gifted undergraduate students the opportunity to take up to 12 semester hours of graduate coursework that may be applied to both degrees. Consult with the graduate program director for more information. Taking graduate-level coursework while an undergraduate does not guarantee admission into the master's program. Students must formally apply and be accepted into the dental hygiene graduate program.

International Dental Hygiene

The School of Dental Hygiene, committed to solving global oral health problems, offers a variety of service learning programs in partnership with non-governmental agencies, academic institutions, and private organizations worldwide. Faculty-led experiences offer unique opportunities for students to travel abroad, develop cross-cultural competence, experience global health challenges, and engage in projects that advance oral health worldwide. International locations are determined by the School of Dental Hygiene in conjunction with the Office of Study Abroad. Program participation requires approval from the School of Dental Hygiene and the Office of Study Abroad. A certificate in Global Health is available, administered through the Center for Global Health and the School of Dental Hygiene.


DNTH 512. Perspectives on Dental Hygiene Practice. 3 Credits.

Course is designed for the licensed dental hygienist who seeks to maintain an awareness of changing trends, perspectives, evidence-based interventions and technologies in dental hygiene, health, and society that influence the dental hygiene process of care. (Offered summer.) Prerequisites: permission of the instructor.

DNTH 514. Educational Concepts for the Health Professional I. 3 Credits.

This course is designed to explore various educational concepts, principles and methods of teaching for adults. Students will learn to present educational information to a diverse client population, in a variety of settings, in an ethical and professional manner. Topics include, but are not limited to, objectives, planning, implementation and evaluation of instruction; instructional strategies; delivery models; presentation skills; and techniques for communicating health information. (offered fall) Prerequisites: permission of the instructor.

DNTH 515. Research Methods in the Health Sciences. 3 Credits.

Designed to develop skills in scientific methods, evidence based decision making, levels of evidence, and critical analysis of research findings. Emphasis on types of research, problem selection and hypothesis writing, research planning and design, data collection and measuring techniques, analysis and interpretation of data, research proposal writing and computer application. A written research proposal is required for graduate credit. (offered fall).

DNTH 516. Administrative Leadership and Professional Development. 3 Credits.

A study of current trends that influence the profession of dental hygiene including oral health care delivery, manpower, financing mechanisms, quality improvement, third party payers, professional associations, regulatory agencies and legislation. Emphasis is on ethical, political, and legal issues as they relate to the dental hygiene profession. (offered spring) Prerequisites: permission of the instructor.

DNTH 540. Telehealthcare Technology. 3 Credits.

This course will examine the concept, global impact, and trends in telehealthcare technology on the client/patient, multidisciplinary practitioners, and various healthcare systems. Emphasis is on effective evidence-based decision making to reduce errors in patient care, promote care in remote or underserved geographical areas, and the ability to retrieve and evaluate healthcare information that improves access to quality, cost effective health care. (Offered spring, summer) Prerequisites: permission of the instructor.

DNTH 597. Independent Study in Dental Hygiene. 1-6 Credits.

Independent reading and study on a topic selected under direction of a faculty member. (Offered fall, spring, summer) Prerequisites: permission of instructor.

DNTH 604. Clinical Administration and Teaching. 4 Credits.

The application of principles and theories of education and management to dental hygiene clinical education. Emphasis is on planning, implementing and evaluating clinical teaching, assessment of clinical competence, management of human and physical resources, and regulations affecting clinical education. This course is offered only during fall semester.

DNTH 611. Modeling and Simulation Applications in Healthcare. 3 Credits.

This course examines the principles and innovative applications for modeling and simulation in healthcare practice, research, education, and administration with emphasis on emerging issues and trends in technology. Topics include the selection and implementation of simulation technology in conceptual epidemiology public and environmental health, dental hygiene, dentistry, nursing, medicine, laboratory sciences, healthcare management and health information. (offered summer).

DNTH 621. Aging in the 21st Century. 3 Credits.

This course will expose the inter-professional student to current and future challenges of aging in our society. Topics will include Healthy People 2020 objectives, health promotion and disease prevention for the aging, sociocultural issues, and theories on behavior and motivation. Common systemic and oral health conditions of the aging adult will be identified. Critical analysis of the current health environment will provide a format for discussion and identification of strategies for health promotion and disease control for the aging. Measures for promoting and maintaining oral health and overall health of the aging population will be explored, with attention to current research from the literature. This course is offered during summer semesters only.

DNTH 650. Advanced International Dental Hygiene. 3-9 Credits.

Faculty-led experiences offer unique opportunities for students to travel abroad, develop cross cultural competence, experience global health challenges, and engage in projects that advance oral health worldwide. Prerequisites: DNTH 514.

DNTH 660. Educational Concepts for the Health Professional II. 3 Credits.

Explores instructional strategies and their application to contemporary health professional roles. Emphasis is on individuals as health care specialists in business and industry; professional, private and public organizations; higher education; and the health care industry. Topics include implementation and evaluation of instruction, roles and responsibilities of faculty within an accredited program affected by state and national standards, and ethical and career related issues and trends. Students are provided with practical experience in traditional and distance education instructional methods. (offered spring) Prerequisites: DNTH 514 or permission of the instructor.

DNTH 663. Interprofessional Health Promotion. 3 Credits.

Course brings together students from various health disciplines to learn each other's roles and collaborate as a team using technology to promote health and prevent disease. Focus will be on optimizing health efforts and outcomes through an interprofessional approach that is guided by the research evidence and current technologies. Topics include Healthy People 2020 objectives, age, specific clinical guidelines for health promotion and illness prevention, theories on behavior and motivation, sociocultural issues, telehealth care, and various health problems. Evidence-based measures used by the team for promoting and maintaining health throughout the lifespan are emphasized. (spring only).

DNTH 668. Internship. 3-9 Credits.

Experience-based learning activities designed to develop a role of competence related to the individual’s area of specialization while working under the supervision of a faculty member or host supervisor within an educational, health care, research, or corporate health setting. A clinical dental hygiene internship is prerequisite to DNTH 669. Available for pass/fail grade only. (offered fall, spring, summer as available) Prerequisites: DNTH 514, DNTH 515, DNTH 604 or permission of the instructor.

DNTH 695. Topics in Dental Hygiene. 1-6 Credits.

Advanced seminars on selected topics in dental hygiene. Topics vary by semester. (offered fall, spring, summer).

DNTH 697. Independent Study-Dental Hygiene. 1-6 Credits.

Independent reading and study on a topic selected under direction of a faculty member. (offered fall, spring, summer) Prerequisite: Graduate Program Director permission required.

DNTH 698. Research. 3 Credits.

An original thesis research project executed with the major advisor and thesis committee supervising the student's research project. A written research proposal must be submitted and approved prior to beginning the project. Required for students in the thesis option. Available as pass/fail grade only. (offered fall, spring, summer). Prerequisites: DNTH 515; FOUN 722 or HLSC 746 or CHP 640 or equivalent statistics course approved by the graduate program director.

DNTH 699. Thesis. 3 Credits.

Devoted to research, writing of the thesis, and scheduled conferences with the candidate's advisor and thesis committee. Students must submit an acceptable written thesis demonstrating knowledge of problem selection, data classification, analysis and interpretation and defend it. Available as pass/fail grade only. (offered fall, spring) Prerequisites: DNTH 698.

DNTH 998. Master's Graduate Credit. 1 Credit.

This course is a pass/fail course for master's students in their final semester. It may be taken to fulfill the registration requirement necessary for graduation. All master's students are required to be registered for at least one graduate credit hour in the semester of their graduation.