How to Choose the Right Dental Hygienist Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist program near Decatur AL is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must assess and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to take into account as well, including the college's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
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The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Decatur AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in almost all states, dental hygienists must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. When they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Training OptionsBecause of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Decatur Alabama dental offices are often required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost 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. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Hygienist Colleges
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist college may be a great alternative for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your personal computer in the convenience of your Decatur AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to get the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the best option for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama, you can begin the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they look for several online alternatives also. Although these may be significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate 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 select an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify 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 education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Decatur AL employers often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is Adequate Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important component of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist programs have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you enroll in provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Decatur AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are evaluating sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the best method to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges require help getting their first job. Check if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Decatur AL dental community as well as large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Smaller? Ask the programs you are reviewing how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Decatur AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can fluctuate in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, don't forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Decatur AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you need to make sure that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and must attend classes near Decatur AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, 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 due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Pick the Right Decatur Dental Hygienist Training
Enrolling in the ideal dental hygienist program is crucial 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 receive your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the work force. When earning a degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama.