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How to Select the Best Dental Hygienist Training Program Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethChoosing the ideal dental hygienist program near Opelika AL is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must assess and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the training with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to consider as well, for instance the program's accreditation and reputation. 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 prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these concerns 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 provided.

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The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride woman's teeth

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 Opelika 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 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.

Online Dental Hygienist Schools

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist removing tartar from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college might be a great option for receiving your training. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this style of education, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the right choice for you.

Points to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they search for some online options also. Even though these are significant initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in almost all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika AL employers frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited schools.

Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an important portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist schools have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind 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 enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective means to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the Opelika AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most graduating students of dental hygienist programs require help getting their first job. Check if the schools 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 profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the programs you are looking at how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of programs, don't forget to add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to go to classes near Opelika AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Opelika

Choose the Right Opelika Dental Hygienist School

Choosing the right dental hygienist course is essential if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous options offered to receive your education 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, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.



 

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