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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young child's teethPicking the ideal dental hygienist school near Birmingham AL is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than selecting the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your home. There are other important issues to consider as well, including the college's accreditation and reputation. 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. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these considerations and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools 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 Job of Dental Hygienists

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young 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

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.

Dental Hygienist Online Training Programs

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist removing tartar from young woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist college can be a great option for receiving your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Birmingham AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can often be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the best choice for you.

Issues to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama, you can begin the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for several online options also. Even though these are significant initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. In order 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 education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Birmingham AL employers typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited colleges.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important component of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only essential 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, confirm that the program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental practice that specializes in dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental programs you are exploring have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective way to receive hands-on, clinical 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 working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygienist schools need help getting their first job. Check if the colleges you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Birmingham AL dental community in addition to large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classes Small? Find out from the programs you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount 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 along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, remember to add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to go to classes near Birmingham AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Birmingham

Choose the Best Birmingham Dental Hygienist School

Choosing the right dental hygienist course is crucial 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 a number of options available to acquire your education 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 junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require roughly two years of studies before they enter the work force. When obtaining a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.



 

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