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How to Choose the Right Dental Hygienist College Near Prattville Alabama

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist college near Prattville AL is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to analyze 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 school that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial issues to take into account also, such as the college's reputation and accreditation. 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 finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Function of a Dental Hygienist

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride woman's teeth

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 Training and Licensing

How do you become a dental hygienist? First, prospective dental hygienist students must receive a degree through an accredited academic program at a community college, technical college, dental school, or university. The majority of college programs take at least two years to complete. Upon earning this associate degree, a prospective hygienist may take licensure examinations to become licensed and work in a dental office. University-based dental hygiene programs offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees, which typically require at least two years of further schooling. Individuals looking to eventually pursue a career in teaching and/or research often seek these degrees. Almost all states require dental hygienists to be graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. However, graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program is only part of the process. Almost all states require candidates for licensure to pass a state-authorized licensure examination and obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination before becoming certified as a dental hygienist. The state or regional examination is structured to test candidates’ clinical dental hygiene skills and other necessary dental topics.

Dental Hygienist Online Schools

Prattville Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning tartar from young woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist college might be a viable alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Prattville AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the best option for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Prattville Alabama, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed 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 search for several online alternatives also. Even though these are relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the colleges you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Prattville AL employers often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited programs.

Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a necessary portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Most dental hygienist programs have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Prattville AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are probably the best way to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools need assistance landing their first job. Find out if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Prattville AL dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Smaller? Ask the schools you are interested in how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the Prattville AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other significant expenses 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 analyzing the cost of schools, don't forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Prattville AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near Prattville AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, 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.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Prattville

Choose the Best Prattville Dental Hygienist School

Selecting the ideal dental hygienist course is essential if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several options 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 programs typically receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Prattville Alabama.



 

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