How to Find the Right Dental Hygiene Degree Program Near Opelika Alabama
Choosing the right dental hygienist college near Opelika AL is an important first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than choosing the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other significant factors to take into account also, including 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 two to three years to accomplish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these considerations and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools 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 Duties of Dental Hygienists
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 Education and LicensingHow 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 Classes
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist college can be a good alternative for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to get the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the right choice for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Hygienist Programs
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 discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they look for some online options as well. Even though these are important initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the best dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly 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 guarantee that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika AL employers typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not available for non-accredited programs.
Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an essential portion of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have partnerships with local dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only essential that the program you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental office that focuses on dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the best method 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 develop working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygienist schools require help getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges 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 refer their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the colleges you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of colleges, don't forget to include all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so make 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 need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near Opelika AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still be required 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 because of illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist School
Enrolling in the right dental hygienist course is essential 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 acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount 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 generally require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the work force. When obtaining a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.