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How to Find the Best Dental Hygienist School Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist school near Opelika AL is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to consider as well, 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 accomplish. Naturally with the longer training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

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The Role of Dental Hygienists

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning 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 Schooling and Licensing

How to become a dental hygienist depends on completing educational requirements, training and passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Dental hygienists receive their education through academic programs at community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. The majority of college programs take at least two years to complete, with graduates receiving associate degrees. Receipt of this degree allows a hygienist to take licensure examinations (national and state or regional), become licensed and to work in a dental office. Dental school and university-based dental hygiene programs may offer baccalaureate and master's degrees, which generally require at least two years of further schooling. These additional degrees may be required for a career in teaching and/or research, as well as for clinical practice in school or public health programs. Dental hygienists are licensed by each state to provide dental hygiene care and patient education. Almost all states require that dental hygienists be graduates of Commission on Dental Education-accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. And, almost all states require candidates for licensure to obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (a comprehensive written examination) in addition to passing the state-authorized licensure examination.

Dental Hygienist Online Training

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist removing plaque from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist school may be a great alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal choice for you.

What to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

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 discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they search for several online options as well. Although these are relevant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Opelika AL employers typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited schools.

Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a necessary component of any dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Many dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the program you choose provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental programs you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to get 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 establish professional relationships in the Opelika AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Many graduating students of dental hygienist colleges need help landing their first job. Find out if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Opelika AL dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.

Are Classes Small? Check with the colleges you are interested in how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private 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, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you must verify that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and have to attend classes near Opelika AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Opelika

Pick the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist Training

Selecting the right dental hygienist course is important if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives offered to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools generally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about two years of studies before they enter the work force. When pursuing a degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the best 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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