How to Choose the Best Dental Hygienist Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Choosing the right dental hygienist program near Decatur AL is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than selecting the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your home. There are other important factors to take into account as well, for instance the school'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. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should 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 provided.
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The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Decatur AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensing examinations. When they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Schooling OptionsAs a result of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Decatur Alabama dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are offered in community colleges as well as trade and technical schools. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. A number of programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Hygienist Training Programs
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist college may be a viable alternative for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Decatur AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The practical training can often be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online program is the best option for you.
Points to Ask Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these are relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the colleges you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in virtually all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Decatur 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, often they are not available for non-accredited programs.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an important part of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have relationships with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Decatur AL dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are looking at sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to receive 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 build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many graduating students of dental hygienist colleges require assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the schools you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Decatur AL dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Check with the colleges you are interested in how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal atmosphere for training where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Decatur AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can differ in cost depending on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant 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 analyzing the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Decatur AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and have to attend classes near Decatur AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Decatur Dental Hygienist Training
Enrolling in the right dental hygienist program is important if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of alternatives available to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require about two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama.