How to Enroll In the Best Dental Hygienist School Near Opelika Alabama
Picking the right dental hygienist school near Opelika AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than choosing the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your home. There are other significant issues to take into account also, including the school'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. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these considerations and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are assessing 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 a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Opelika AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's duties may include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. When they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Training OptionsBecause of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Opelika Alabama dental offices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are offered in trade and vocational schools as well as community colleges. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Hygienist Programs
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist school can be a viable alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the best option for you.
Points to Cover With Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they look for some online alternatives also. Even though these are significant initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program 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 frequently desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited schools.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options as well. Most dental hygienist schools have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you enroll in offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure 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? Verify if the dental colleges you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Most graduating students of dental hygienist colleges require help getting their first job. Find out if the schools you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Opelika AL dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Small? Check with the programs you are evaluating how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can fluctuate in cost depending on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other significant 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 comparing the cost of colleges, don't forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while getting your education and have to go to classes near Opelika AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Opelika Dental Hygienist School
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist course is imperative 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 available to receive 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 programs normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When earning a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.