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How to Pick the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young boy's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist college near Opelika AL is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider also, including the college'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 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Function of Dental Hygienists

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning 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.

Online Dental Hygienist Training Programs

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from young woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist college can be a viable alternative for obtaining your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Opelika AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be completed at an area dental office 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 discipline for this style of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the ideal choice for you.

Points to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama, you can start the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they search for some online alternatives as well. Even though these are significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are a number of 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 requirement in nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika AL employers frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited programs.

Is Plenty of Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist programs have relationships with local dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the school you select offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental practice that specializes in dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are considering have internship programs. Internships are probably the best means to get 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 form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require help getting their first job. Ask if the colleges you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Opelika AL dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are Classrooms Smaller? Ask the colleges you are evaluating how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses 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 add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and need to attend classes near Opelika AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Opelika

Pick the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist Program

Selecting the ideal dental hygienist program is crucial if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several options offered to acquire your training 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, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require about 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When earning a degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions provided 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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