How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Picking the ideal dental hygienist school near Decatur AL is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account also, for instance 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 finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.
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The Job of a Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist cleans teeth, examines patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provides other preventative dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health. Almost all Decatur Alabama dental hygienists work in dental offices and work closely with dentists and dental assistants. A dental hygienist uses many types of tools to do their job. They clean and polish teeth with both hand and powered tools, as well as ultrasonic devices. In some cases, hygienists remove stains with an air polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. They polish teeth with a powered tool that works like an automatic toothbrush, and use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems. Some other tasks of a dental hygienist include:
- Removing tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
- Applying sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
- Taking and developing dental x-rays
- Keeping track of patient care and treatment plans
- Teaching patients oral hygiene, such as how to brush and floss correctly
Dental hygienists help patients develop and keep good oral health. They may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They also may give advice to patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral-care devices.
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 college might be a good alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Decatur AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to school, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The clinical 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 receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the ideal option for you.
Issues to Ask Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, a number of students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for several online alternatives as well. Although these may be important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of 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 ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify 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 instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Decatur AL employers frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not obtainable for non-accredited colleges.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important portion of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Most dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with local dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you select offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Decatur AL dental practice that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental programs you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to get hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require help obtaining their first job. Ask if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Decatur AL dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Smaller? Check with the colleges you are interested in how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal environment for training where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Decatur AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can differ in cost dependent on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial 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 costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Decatur AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you need to verify that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and must go to classes near Decatur AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.
Pick the Right Decatur Dental Hygienist School
Choosing the right dental hygienist course is essential if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous alternatives available to acquire your training 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 community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a degree you can elect to attend 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 ideal selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama.