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How to Enroll In the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethPicking the right dental hygienist program near Birmingham AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than picking the school with the lowest 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 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 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are evaluating 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 Function of Dental Hygienists

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride 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 Education 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.

Online Dental Hygienist Classes

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist program might be a great option for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Birmingham AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting 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 online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the right option for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama, you can start the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they look for some online alternatives also. Although these are relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Birmingham AL employers typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited schools.

Is Plenty of Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary component of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with local dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly 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 create professional relationships in the Birmingham AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs need assistance landing their first job. Ask if the programs you are looking at 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 position their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classrooms Small? Ask the colleges you are evaluating how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to find out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near Birmingham AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Birmingham

Choose the Best Birmingham Dental Hygienist School

Choosing the ideal dental hygienist course is essential 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 a number of alternatives available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require roughly 2 years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining 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 commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.



 

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