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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene Training Program Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethPicking the right dental hygienist program near Birmingham AL is an important first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than picking the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other important issues to take into account also, including 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 complete. Obviously with the longer training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and additional questions that you need to 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 offered.

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The Role of Dental Hygienists

Birmingham 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 Education and Licensing

How to become a dental hygienist depends on completing educational requirements, training and passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Dental hygienists receive their education through academic programs at community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. The majority of college programs take at least two years to complete, with graduates receiving associate degrees. Receipt of this degree allows a hygienist to take licensure examinations (national and state or regional), become licensed and to work in a dental office. Dental school and university-based dental hygiene programs may offer baccalaureate and master's degrees, which generally require at least two years of further schooling. These additional degrees may be required for a career in teaching and/or research, as well as for clinical practice in school or public health programs. Dental hygienists are licensed by each state to provide dental hygiene care and patient education. Almost all states require that dental hygienists be graduates of Commission on Dental Education-accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. And, almost all states require candidates for licensure to obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (a comprehensive written examination) in addition to passing the state-authorized licensure examination.

Online Dental Hygienist Classes

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist school can be a viable option for receiving your education. Just remember that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Birmingham AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to get the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the ideal option for you.

What to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they look for some online alternatives also. Even though these are significant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the programs you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are planning 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 program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Birmingham AL employers frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not offered for non-accredited schools.

Is Sufficient Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. Many dental hygienist schools have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the program you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are probably the most effective means to receive 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 develop professional relationships in the Birmingham AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Many graduating students of dental hygienist colleges need assistance landing their first job. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Birmingham AL dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the colleges you are interested in how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can fluctuate in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other substantial 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 expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and have to attend classes near Birmingham AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Birmingham

Pick the Right Birmingham Dental Hygienist Training

Picking the right dental hygienist course is essential if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous alternatives offered to obtain your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools usually earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the best selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.



 

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