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How to Pick the Best Dental Hygienist Program Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethPicking the ideal dental hygienist college near Opelika AL is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant issues to take into account also, including the college's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. 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 review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

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The Duties of a Dental Hygienist

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride young 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 Training 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.

Dental Hygienist Online Training

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist removing tartar from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college may be a good alternative for getting your training. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can typically be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to receive the proper 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 right choice for you.

What to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they search for some online alternatives also. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the schools you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Opelika AL employers frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.

Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important component of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the college you choose provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the program you select offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are evaluating have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best 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 establish professional relationships in the Opelika AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need help getting their first job. Ask if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Opelika AL dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are Classrooms Small? Check with the colleges you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.

 What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of programs, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and need to attend classes near Opelika AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, 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 have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.

Find Out How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Opelika

Pick the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist Program

Selecting the right dental hygienist course is important if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs usually obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require roughly two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.



 

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