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How to Find the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Prattville Alabama

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young child's teethChoosing the ideal dental hygienist program near Prattville AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to consider also, such as the college'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 complete. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's explore the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride woman's teeth

When comparing the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Prattville AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient's teeth and gums and present their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:

    • Removing plaque, tartar and stains
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
    • Educating patients about oral care
    • Taking X-rays and developing film
    • 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 must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam as well as any state licensing exams. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Education Options

As a result of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Prattville Alabama dental offices are normally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take anywhere from two to as long as three years to finish 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 aspect to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.

Online Dental Hygienist Classes

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from young woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist program may be a viable alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Prattville AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can typically be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the best option for you.

Questions to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Prattville Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing schools and programs. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online options as well. Even though these are important initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. 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 Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Prattville AL employers frequently desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited schools.

Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Many dental hygienist programs have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the program you select offers clinical rotation in a local Prattville AL dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are exploring sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal means to get hands-on, practical experience in a real 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 look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need assistance obtaining their first job. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Prattville AL dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.

Are Classes Small? Ask the colleges you are looking at how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Prattville AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost based on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Prattville AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must make sure that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and have to attend classes near Prattville AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.

More Info on How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Prattville

Pick the Right Prattville Dental Hygienist School

Selecting the ideal dental hygienist course is important if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of options offered to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately 2 years of studies before they enter the work force. When earning a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Prattville Alabama.



 

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