How to Enroll In the Best Dental Hygienist Degree Program Near Opelika Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist school near Opelika AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to take into account also, for instance the school's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists typically 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 longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these considerations and additional 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 Duties of a Dental Hygienist
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 LicensingIndividuals wanting to become dental hygienists generally have two options: associate's degree programs or bachelor's degree programs. Most associate's degree programs take just two years to finish on a full-time basis. Bachelor's programs take four years to finish but can help you qualify for better jobs as well as those that pay more. And while bachelor's programs take longer to finish, these programs often include some clinical or practical work that helps you get familiar working with patients. Becoming a dental assistant or a hygienist requires that you get your license. According to the American Dental Association, most states require that hygienists have a degree from an accredited college or university and that they take an exam called the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. If you do not receive a passing score on this exam, you will have the chance to take it again. You may need to take a test administered by the state board as well. This test will ask general questions about oral health, teeth cleaning and other things that dental hygienists do.
Online Dental Hygienist Classes
Selecting an online dental hygienist college might be a good alternative for getting your education. Just remember 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 available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The practical training can often be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal option for you.
Questions to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many potential students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these are significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of important 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 Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika AL employers typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important part of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. A number of dental hygienist schools have partnerships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the college you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For 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 specializes in dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal method 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 create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require assistance getting their first job. Check if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Opelika AL dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the schools you are reviewing how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate environment for training where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public 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 textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges 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 Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to verify that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and must attend classes near Opelika AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Pick the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist Training
Choosing the right dental hygienist program is important if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to obtain your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools normally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When earning a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the best selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.