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How to Select the Best Dental Hygienist School Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young boy's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist program near Athens AL is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your home. There are other important issues to consider as well, including the school's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these issues and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

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The Job of Dental Hygienists

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 Training and Licensing

Individuals wanting to become dental hygienists generally have two options: associate's degree programs or bachelor's degree programs. Most associate's degree programs take just two years to finish on a full-time basis. Bachelor's programs take four years to finish but can help you qualify for better jobs as well as those that pay more. And while bachelor's programs take longer to finish, these programs often include some clinical or practical work that helps you get familiar working with patients. Becoming a dental assistant or a hygienist requires that you get your license. According to the American Dental Association, most states require that hygienists have a degree from an accredited college or university and that they take an exam called the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. If you do not receive a passing score on this exam, you will have the chance to take it again. You may need to take a test administered by the state board as well. This test will ask general questions about oral health, teeth cleaning and other things that dental hygienists do.

Online Dental Hygienist Classes

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist school may be a great alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Athens AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the right choice for you.

Questions 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 programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they search for several online options also. Although these are relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the programs you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence 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 select an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Athens AL employers frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. 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? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. A number of dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with local dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the college you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective method to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the Athens AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require assistance landing their first job. Ask if the programs you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher 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 place their students for employment or internships.

Are Classrooms Small? Ask the colleges you are evaluating how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other substantial costs 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 comparing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Athens AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you need to verify that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while getting your education and need to attend classes near Athens AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

More Info on How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Athens

Choose the Right Athens Dental Hygienist Training

Picking the right dental hygienist program is imperative if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of options offered to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require about two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right 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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