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How to Find the Best Dental Hygiene Degree 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 starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than picking the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as 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 2 to 3 years to finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

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The Function of a Dental Hygienist

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride young 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

Dental hygienists typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene also are available, but are less common. A bachelor's or master's degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2017, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs. Programs typically take 2 to 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations are required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state's Board of Dental Examiners.

Dental Hygienist Online Classes

Opelika Alabama Dental Hygienist removing plaque from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college may be a viable option for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. 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 needed to receive the appropriate education is provided. 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 Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

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 covered at the start of this article, many potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for some online options also. Although these may be important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the colleges you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika AL employers typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not offered for non-accredited schools.

Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a necessary component of any dental training program. This holds true for the online school options as well. Most dental hygienist schools have associations with area dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the college you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental programs you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal means to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They make it easier for 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 too.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require assistance landing their first job. Find out if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Opelika AL dental profession as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Small? Check with the colleges you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, 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 amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can differ in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses 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 schools, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so make sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while getting your education and must 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 protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Find Out How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Opelika

Choose the Best Opelika Dental Hygienist School

Picking the ideal 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 a number of options available to receive your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about two 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 elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.



 

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