How to Choose the Right Dental Hygiene Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Selecting the ideal dental hygienist program near Decatur AL is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account also, including the school's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists usually 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 cost. We will cover all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's explore the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
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The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
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 Hygienist Training and LicensingDental hygienists typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene also are available, but are less common. A bachelor's or master's degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2017, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs. Programs typically take 2 to 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations are required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state's Board of Dental Examiners.
Online Dental Hygienist Schools
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist school might be a great option for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your personal computer in the convenience of your Decatur AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be performed at a community dental practice 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 discipline for this style of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the ideal option for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Hygienist Schools
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they look for some online options also. Although these may be significant initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are looking at 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 best dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly 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 establish that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Decatur AL employers often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited programs.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important component of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Decatur AL dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental programs you are considering have an internship program. Internships are probably the best means 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 too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Many graduating students of dental hygienist schools require help getting their first job. Find out if the colleges you are considering 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 community in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the schools you are evaluating how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a few classes at the Decatur AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can vary in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to find out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Decatur AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and must go to classes near Decatur AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Right Decatur Dental Hygienist School
Selecting the right dental hygienist course is crucial if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options available to obtain your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing 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 better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama.