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How to Find the Right Dental Hygiene Program Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young child's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist college near Athens AL is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account also, for instance the school's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Function of Dental Hygienists

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young woman's teeth

Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care under a dentist's supervision. They clean patients' teeth and examine their mouths for signs of damage, gingivitis, and other diseases. Hygienists teach patients how to maintain good oral health. They also schedule appointments and keep records and may take and develop X-rays. Their scope of practice, which is the list of services they are legally allowed to deliver, differs according to the regulations of the state in which they practice. Dental hygienists generally are required to perform duties that include the following:

  • Complete a preliminary exam on each new dental service patient
  • Clean and remove stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth
  • Apply fluorides and sealants for tooth protection
  • Take dental x-rays and develop them
  • Administer local anesthetics to patients
  • Document treatment plans and care performed on patients
  • Examine each patient's oral health and communicate findings to dentists
  • Educate patients on how to care for their teeth with good oral hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing
Dental hygienists must also use several tools as part of their job. This includes hand, power, and ultrasonic tools for cleaning and polishing teeth, and x-ray machines for taking patient x-rays to check for issues with teeth and jaws.

Dental Hygienist Schooling and Licensing

Dental hygienists typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene also are available, but are less common. A bachelor's or master's degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2017, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs. Programs typically take 2 to 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations are required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state's Board of Dental Examiners.

Online Dental Hygienist Training

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from young woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist college may be a good alternative for receiving your training. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Athens AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can typically be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online program is the best choice for you.

Subjects to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing schools and programs. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they look for several online options also. Although these are relevant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Athens AL employers typically desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not provided for non-accredited programs.

Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist schools have partnerships with local dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the school you enroll in offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the best way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form professional relationships in the Athens AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need help getting their first job. Find out if the programs you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Athens AL dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the programs you are interested in how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of colleges, don't forget to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Athens AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and need to go to classes near Athens AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.

More Info on How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Athens

Pick the Best Athens Dental Hygienist Program

Enrolling in the ideal dental hygienist course is imperative if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several alternatives offered to obtain your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.



 

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