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How to Choose the Right Dental Hygiene Program Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist school near Florence AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than choosing the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other significant issues to take into account also, such as the school'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 two to three years to complete. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

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The Duties of a Dental Hygienist

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride 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

Dental 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

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist program might be a good alternative for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Florence AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can typically be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the best choice for you.

Questions to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Florence Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they look for several online options also. Although these are important initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in virtually 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 ensure that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Florence AL employers frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited schools.

Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the program you select offers clinical rotation in a local Florence AL dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are evaluating have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal means to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form professional relationships in the Florence AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygienist schools require assistance getting their first job. Find out if the programs you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Florence AL dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.

Are Classrooms Small? Find out from the programs you are reviewing how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the Florence AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are private or public also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of colleges, don't forget to add all of the costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Florence AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and must attend classes near Florence AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

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Pick the Right Florence Dental Hygienist Program

Picking the right dental hygienist program is imperative if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to obtain your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs typically receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require about 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Florence Alabama.



 

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