How to Find the Best Dental Hygiene College Near Birmingham Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist program near Birmingham AL is an essential 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 completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to take into account also, such as the college's reputation and accreditation. 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 finish. Obviously with the longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these considerations and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's look at the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
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The Job of Dental Hygienists
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 Hygienist Education and LicensingDental 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
Selecting an online dental hygienist school may be a good alternative for receiving your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Birmingham AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending school, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can typically be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online college is the right choice for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for several online alternatives also. Even though these may be relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly 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 comprehensive and of the highest quality. Birmingham AL employers typically desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the program you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are considering have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective method to get hands-on, practical 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 build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Many graduating students of dental hygienist schools require assistance obtaining their first job. Find out if the colleges you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Birmingham AL dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the colleges you are reviewing how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate 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, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ 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 besides the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, remember to add all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and have to go to classes near Birmingham AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, 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 illness, work or family responsibilities.
Pick the Right Birmingham Dental Hygienist School
Selecting the ideal dental hygienist course is imperative if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several options offered to receive your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require about 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. 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 presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.