Dental Hygienists Make Perfect Public Health Professionals

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Doctor holding tooth mode

For students and professionals interested in dentistry and overall oral care, a career as a dental hygienist is a great opportunity to impact lives one patient at a time. But maybe you desire to improve the oral health of your community beyond the traditional dental setting and just don’t know where to start. With a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, you could gain the skills necessary to plan programs that increase access to care for high-risk populations with community-based initiatives and develop policy proposals, for example.

If you are a dental hygienist seeking career growth, an MPH can be your path to serving your community on a much larger scale.

Why should a dental hygienist earn a Master of Public Health?


An MPH degree can prepare you to plan and implement oral health programs in your community, perhaps serving children or older adults, and provide the opportunity to move beyond direct patient care in a dental office setting. Below are examples of the type of work you could do after graduating with an MPH.

  • Work for an agency or non-profit managing oral health prevention programs to expand access to care
  • Conduct oral health surveillance and research
  • Influence public policy to help establish and maintain a healthy community

“Dental hygienists are focused on oral health, but the mouth is part of the body, and there are systemic and societal factors that play into good oral health,” said Lynn Short, a lecturer and educator at the University of Nevada, Reno, and an oral health professional for more than 35 years. “A master’s in public health program connects dental hygienists to a wider variety of subjects including the social determinants that impact health, as well as data collection, management, and health policy to assist them in positively impacting health and wellness on a larger scale.”

How can an MPH degree advance a dental hygienist’s capabilities?


For example, Short said the traditional duties of a dental hygienist might involve performing oral health screenings, applying sealants and fluoride, educating about nutrition and tobacco prevention. With a Master of Public Health, a dental hygienist can expand on these practices, for example, assessing an entire school population for health risks. They can then create and manage programs designed to improve the dental health of children, as well as their families and the communities in which they live, play and learn.

“It’s an advantage for a dental hygienist interested in public health to have connections with other professionals in areas outside of dentistry,” said Short. “It takes a village to improve and make an impact on population health.”

What are the learning outcomes associated with earning an MPH?

Online MPH graduates emerge with a command of the educational and preventive expertise required to make lasting change in public health, such as the following:

  • Identify and assess dental health problems among diverse population groups on a local, national or global scale.
  • Describe the social, cultural, economic, environmental and institutional factors that affect the oral health of individuals or groups.
  • Evaluate educational, community, institutional and other population-based intervention strategies to improve oral health.
  • Analyze and assess policies aimed at solving public health issues through improved oral health.
  • Apply evidence-based research findings to the development and implementation of public oral health policies, programs and intervention strategies.

“The University of Nevada, Reno’s online education platform allows dental hygienists to direct their education to what their responsibilities are — work and home — and take care of themselves, while improving and expanding their professional value,” Short said.

What career opportunities are available for dental hygienists with an MPH?


An online MPH is designed to position dental hygiene professionals to maximize their career options outside of traditional clinical practice. This includes positions that serve patients directly or indirectly in the following settings:

  • Community and school-based oral health programs
  • Government agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Regional or local clinics
  • Non-profit
  • Higher education
  • Private businesses

Why choose the University of Nevada, Reno for your MPH?


An online MPH degree from the University of Nevada, Reno is more than an education; it’s a mark of distinction that prepares you to build a healthier, happier future for your community. Our flexible, CEPH-accredited program is also designed for your convenience with benefits including the following:

  • 100% online with no residency requirement
  • Multiple start dates per year
  • Graduate in as few as 24 months
  • No GRE required for experienced applicants

We’ve also structured our curriculum around the most important topics that are shaping the future of public health, such as:

  • Biostatistics
  • Social and Behavioral Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Research Methods
  • Leadership in Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Finance and Budget
  • Health Informatics
  • Program Planning and Evaluation
  • Public Health Law, Ethics and Policy Analysis

If you want to expand on your career and impact the oral health of local, national or global communities, visit our online MPH program to learn all the ways the University of Nevada, Reno can bring your career ambitions within reach.


Suggested Readings

Confronting Current Public Health Issues Head-On

What Is The Value of an MPH in Today’s Public Health Marketplace?

University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Public Health