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How to Pick the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethPicking the ideal dental hygienist college near Florence AL is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to consider also, such as the program'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. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these factors and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

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The Function of a Dental Hygienist

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride young woman's teeth

Dental hygienists are licensed healthcare professionals who provide preventive, educational and therapeutic dental health services directly to patients. They focus on preventing and treating dental diseases to improve oral health, in support of the patient’s overall health. The scope of practice for dental hygienists varies from state to state. Most dental hygienists perform oral health assessments; expose, process and interpret dental radiographs (x-rays); remove plaque, calculus and stain from the teeth; apply preventive materials including fluoride and sealants; teach patients proper oral hygiene techniques; and counsel patients on maintaining optimal oral health. In some states, dental hygienists can administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation; prescribe fluoride and antimicrobial agents; place temporary restorations; and place permanent restorations.  Clinical dental hygienists provide direct patient care in a variety of healthcare settings which include private dental offices, managed care organizations, schools, public health clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

Dental Hygienist Education and Licensing

How do you become a dental hygienist? First, prospective dental hygienist students must receive a degree through an accredited academic program at a community college, technical college, dental school, or university. The majority of college programs take at least two years to complete. Upon earning this associate degree, a prospective hygienist may take licensure examinations to become licensed and work in a dental office. University-based dental hygiene programs offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees, which typically require at least two years of further schooling. Individuals looking to eventually pursue a career in teaching and/or research often seek these degrees. Almost all states require dental hygienists to be graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. However, graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program is only part of the process. Almost all states require candidates for licensure to pass a state-authorized licensure examination and obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination before becoming certified as a dental hygienist. The state or regional examination is structured to test candidates’ clinical dental hygiene skills and other necessary dental topics.

Dental Hygienist Online Colleges

Florence Alabama Dental Hygienist removing tartar from woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist program may be a great alternative for getting your training. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Florence AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the best choice for you.

Questions to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Florence Alabama, you can start the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they search for several online options as well. Even though these are important initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the programs you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental College 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 nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Florence AL employers often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited schools.

Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital portion of any dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of dental hygienist programs have partnerships with area dental offices and clinics that provide 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 type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Florence AL dental office that focuses on dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are considering have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective way to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the Florence AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most graduating students of dental hygienist colleges require help landing their first job. Check if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Florence AL dental community as well as large networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Small? Find out from the schools you are evaluating how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Florence AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of schools, don't forget to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Florence AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must go to classes near Florence AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Florence

Choose the Best Florence Dental Hygienist Training

Selecting the right dental hygienist program is crucial 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 several alternatives available to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools generally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about 2 years of studies before they enter the work force. When obtaining a degree you can choose 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 in a better position to make the ideal selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Florence Alabama.



 

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