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How to Select the Right Dental Hygienist School Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist college near Birmingham AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account also, for instance the college'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 finish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride 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 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.

Dental Hygienist Online Colleges

Birmingham Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from young woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist school might be a good option for obtaining your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your personal 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 far more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to get the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the best option for you.

Subjects to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for some online options as well. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Birmingham AL employers often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not offered for non-accredited schools.

Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist schools have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the program you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm 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? Find out if the dental programs you are exploring have internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional dental practice. They help 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 Support Offered? Many graduating students of dental hygienist schools require help getting their first job. Find out if the programs you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Birmingham AL dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.

Are Classrooms Small? Find out from the programs you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, for instance 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 significant costs 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 analyzing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and need to go to classes near Birmingham AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

Find Out How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Birmingham

Pick the Right Birmingham Dental Hygienist Program

Selecting the ideal dental hygienist program is crucial if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous options available to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require roughly 2 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 elect to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.



 

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