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How to Pick the Best Dental Hygiene College Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist school near Athens AL is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to consider also, for instance the college's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Job of a Dental Hygienist

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride young woman's teeth

Dental hygienists are licensed healthcare professionals who provide preventive, educational and therapeutic dental health services directly to patients. They focus on preventing and treating dental diseases to improve oral health, in support of the patient’s overall health. The scope of practice for dental hygienists varies from state to state. Most dental hygienists perform oral health assessments; expose, process and interpret dental radiographs (x-rays); remove plaque, calculus and stain from the teeth; apply preventive materials including fluoride and sealants; teach patients proper oral hygiene techniques; and counsel patients on maintaining optimal oral health. In some states, dental hygienists can administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation; prescribe fluoride and antimicrobial agents; place temporary restorations; and place permanent restorations.  Clinical dental hygienists provide direct patient care in a variety of healthcare settings which include private dental offices, managed care organizations, schools, public health clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

Dental Hygienist Schooling and Licensing

How do you become a dental hygienist? First, prospective dental hygienist students must receive a degree through an accredited academic program at a community college, technical college, dental school, or university. The majority of college programs take at least two years to complete. Upon earning this associate degree, a prospective hygienist may take licensure examinations to become licensed and work in a dental office. University-based dental hygiene programs offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees, which typically require at least two years of further schooling. Individuals looking to eventually pursue a career in teaching and/or research often seek these degrees. Almost all states require dental hygienists to be graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. However, graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program is only part of the process. Almost all states require candidates for licensure to pass a state-authorized licensure examination and obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination before becoming certified as a dental hygienist. The state or regional examination is structured to test candidates’ clinical dental hygiene skills and other necessary dental topics.

Dental Hygienist Online Programs

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist removing plaque from young woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist program can be a great option for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Athens AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to get the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the right choice for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for some online alternatives as well. Even though these may be significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the schools you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Athens AL employers typically desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not offered for non-accredited programs.

Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of dental hygienist programs have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you choose provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools need help obtaining their first job. Find out if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Athens AL dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the colleges you are evaluating how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a few classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can fluctuate in cost based on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, don't forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Athens AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and have to go to classes near Athens AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice 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

Choose the Right Athens Dental Hygienist School

Choosing the ideal dental hygienist course is imperative if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many options offered to receive your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education 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 usually require about two years of studies before they enter the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.



 

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