Why Should You Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene?

June 11, 2021


A masked dental hygienist caring for a patient sitting in a dental chair

Two years ago, Megan Laurent, a dental hygienist working in the Milwaukee area, hit what she called “a wall in my clinical career.” After earning an associate degree and gaining work experience, she wanted to do more in her profession, especially in providing service for underserved populations.

Megan Laurent

That’s when she decided to enter the Marian University online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program.

“I was feeling discouraged and losing passion for my career because I felt stuck. I also felt that I was not doing enough for my patients or our underserved populations,” Laurent says. “I learned briefly about Dental Therapists in my associate degree training and always felt a strong connection to the model that aims to help the underserved populations. My future career aspiration is to become a Dental Therapist or pursue other avenues in our profession.”

Her experience at Marian changes those prior feelings of the profession and her place in it. “With every course I take, I feel that there is another opportunity presented, and it makes me have hope for the future Dental Hygienist,” she said.

Laurent and fellow student Carina Mino-Mickelson both recently shared their reasons for pursuing a bachelor’s in dental hygiene. Both hold an associate’s degree and already have jobs in the field.

Exploring Potential Dental Hygiene Careers

Carina Mino-Mickelson is a mother of three currently working as a clinical dental hygienist in Winneconne and Appleton. For her, entering Marian’s online bachelor’s degree program is about exploring new possibilities.

Mino-Mickelson enjoys her current work as a dental hygienist. “I feel I am capable of making a difference in people’s lives – changing the world one smile at a time,” she says. But she also is keeping her options open.

“I don’t necessarily have one career aspiration. I didn’t want to wait to start the program with a career goal. I am learning about all the opportunities. I

Carina Mino-Mickelson

know doors will open up for me in the future,” she says, adding that the coursework takes her beyond what she learned at the associate level.

“I have learned about what I can do as a hygienist other than clinical hygiene, for example,” Mino-Mickelson says. “I am able to work on public health, pursue leadership roles, be an educator, be part of research organizations, and more.”

Colleen Brickle, Program Director for the bachelor’s degree program in dental hygiene and a member of the Wisconsin Dental Hygienists’ Association (WI-DHA), says both women provide great examples of the students Marian University officials hoped to serve when they created the program.

“It’s exciting to see students of this professional caliber in our program. We set out to create a program that would address the very concerns and aspirations we hear from both Carina and Megan,” says Brickle. “I feel we are serving our mission in the dental hygiene community, both in Wisconsin and anywhere dental hygienists decide to enroll in our online program.”

Why Choose Marian University for Your Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene?

Pursuing new opportunities in dental hygiene led Mino-Mickelson to the Marian program. “It is a prestigious university, and it is the first university in Wisconsin to offer a BS in hygiene degree,” she says.

Features of the program Mino-Mickelson like best include:

  • The 7 week-long courses allowing her to “stay engaged and focus.”
  • Instructor availability through a phone call, email, or Zoom meeting to ask questions or voice concerns.
  • The connection she feels with her instructors, even though the program is online. “I feel they know me personally and they have all been very supportive.”
  • The ability to work on assignments around her busy lifestyle and make her own schedule.

Laurent also likes the seven-week courses. The structure allows her to move faster toward earning her degree. She says that working full-time doesn’t give her a lot of time outside of work for school. Marian University’s flexible online program works for her. She can take fewer classes each semester “and focus on them while still being able to work.”

“I also liked that the program was in Wisconsin. I had previously looked at completion degrees for schools in different states,” says Laurent. “But having the program in Wisconsin helps me to relate to the curriculum more because the material is geared towards Wisconsin populations, laws, and community problems,”

Both Mino-Michelson and Laurent express praise for the Marian faculty. “All the instructors have been helpful, quick to answer questions, and they’ve made the courses thorough and intriguing,” Laurent says. “I have been pleased with the instruction and coursework.”

Differences Between Associate and Bachelor Programs

Laurent relates a telling story regarding the quality instruction she enjoys with Marian University’s bachelor in dental hygiene program. The program instantly changed her perspective on one crucial aspect of dental hygiene.

The Community course in her Associate’s degree program  was “boring and turned me off community-based dentistry.” However, her first course at Marian was Community Dental Health Practice and the difference made an impression on her.

“This course differed from the community course of my associate degree program in that it highlighted alternative dental hygiene positions. During the course, we learned about the alternative career options for dental hygienists across the United States,” she said. “I felt that Marian’s seven-week course taught me more about community than the traditional 16-week course during my associates’ program. It also gave me a renewed vision for what a community dental hygienist can accomplish.”

Mino-Michelson also enjoyed the 7-week Community Dental Health Practice course at Marain, saying she learned about opportunities in the field. For example, “I learned that as a dental hygienist in my state, I am also able to work at schools, hospitals, retirement homes, and assisted living facilities without being supervised by a dentist,” she said.

Laurent also listed other classes that have provided further insight into the profession, including Leading and Managing Teams in Healthcare, Dental Hygiene Educational Methodology, and Translating Research into Dental Hygiene.

Is Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene Worth It?

Both Mino-Michelson and Laurent were enthusiastic about their choice to earn a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. The pair said they enjoy the classes, instructors, and getting to know fellow students through group projects.

Mino-Michelson says she would tell dental hygienists considering the program that they should “pursue this path to continue to grow within the profession and learn all the opportunities and possibilities you can explore as a dental hygienist.” She adds that this includes personal and professional development, realizing career possibilities, and working collaboratively to advance the dental hygiene profession.

Laurent says her fellow dental hygienists would benefit from the knowledge and skills learned in the classes, with the opportunity to apply it immediately to their job.

For example, she said a project in the Translating Research into Dental Hygiene course involved learning the importance of evidence-based decision-making in clinical practice.

“At the end of the course, we had to complete a project where we applied evidence-based decision-making to a certain population or problem. Going through this process helped me understand how to apply proper research techniques and determine the appropriate intervention for the specific population. I will continue to use these skills in my clinical practice,” Laurent said.

She said she would tell those who are considering earning a bachelor’s degree: “Do this for you. It will be worth it! I know that by continuing my education, I am setting myself up for a better future and opportunities for myself. You can do this!”