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New MSDH program launching at UTHealth

Shortage of dental hygiene educators predicted

Dental hygiene educators with master's degrees are qualified to teach at the university level.
Dental hygiene educators with master's degrees are qualified to teach at the university level. (Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/McGovern Medical School at UTHealth)

**UPDATE: This program has been postponed until 2021 because of COVID-19.**  UTHealth School of Dentistry will offer a new master of science degree in dental hygiene in fall 2020, opening new doors for those who already have a bachelor’s degree, even in another field.

“This gives dental hygienists the opportunity to teach at the university level or in a dental school, where a master’s degree is a requirement or preferred,” said Dental Hygiene Program Director and Distinguished Teaching Professor Donna Warren Morris, RDH, MEd.

“A master’s degree gives a dental hygienist the education and credentials to direct a program in dental hygiene or assume other administrative roles. It broadens opportunities to work in sales or oral health research.”

The new MSDH program will require 33 semester credit hours of upper-level courses focusing on dental hygiene education. Coursework may be taken full- or part-time but must be completed within five years.

Because nearly three-fourths of the program is online, students may continue working while taking classes. “They can work and take two courses a semester until they get to the practicum courses,” Morris said.

John Valenza, DDS, dean of the School of Dentistry, said offering a master’s degree in dental hygiene “is an important next step for our school in advancing the education and practice of dental hygiene while expanding our partnerships with other schools at UTHealth.”

Already, the School of Dentistry and UTHealth School of Public Health offer dental hygiene baccalaureate students an option for concurrent enrollment leading to a certificate or master’s degree in public health.

Morris noted dental hygiene educators are in demand. The American Dental Education Association reported that approximately 75 percent of dental hygiene educators were over age 40 in 2016, and more than half will be retirement age in five to 10 years, opening up new jobs for dental hygienists with master’s degrees.  “Our program teaches you how to teach,” she said.

In fact, two courses in the master’s curriculum will be similar to the practice-teaching requirement in Texas teacher certification programs, but in this case, the practice teaching will take place within the Dental Hygiene Program. The graduate students will present lectures, in addition to teaching good clinical practice.

The School of Dentistry will begin accepting applications for the new program on Nov. 1, 2019 and continue until June 1, 2020. Classes will start in August 2020. Applicants must submit all transcripts and a letter of reference. Visit for complete information about this and other dental hygiene options at UTHealth.

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