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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene College Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist school near Athens AL is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than selecting the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to take into account also, for instance the program's accreditation and reputation. 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 accomplish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's look at the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning 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 Training 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 Classes

Athens Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college may be a good option for getting your education. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest 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 classes make education much more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can typically be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the best choice for you.

What to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

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 covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students start by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives also. Although these may be significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should 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 assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Athens AL employers typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.

Is Enough Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have relationships with local dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the college you choose provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental office that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are considering have internship programs. Internships are probably the best means to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish professional relationships in the Athens AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most graduating students of dental hygienist programs require help getting their first job. Check if the colleges you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Athens AL dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Small? Check with the schools you are reviewing how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, 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 enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and have to attend classes near Athens AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Athens

Choose the Best Athens Dental Hygienist School

Picking the right dental hygienist program is imperative if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives offered to acquire 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 community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When earning a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.



 

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