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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist school near Tuscaloosa AL is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than selecting the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account also, such as the program's reputation and accreditation. 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. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

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The Job of Dental Hygienists

Tuscaloosa Alabama Dental Hygienist applying fluoride 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 Tuscaloosa 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.

Online Dental Hygienist Training

Tuscaloosa Alabama Dental Hygienist removing plaque from young woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college might be a viable alternative for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Tuscaloosa AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending school, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The practical training can typically be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the ideal choice for you.

Questions to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many potential students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Maybe they look for some online alternatives also. Even though these are important initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Tuscaloosa AL employers typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited colleges.

Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the program you choose offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are probably the ideal way to obtain hands-on, clinical 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 establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Many graduating students of dental hygienist colleges need assistance getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Smaller? Check with the schools you are interested in how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a few classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.

 What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can fluctuate in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, don't forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and have to go to classes near Tuscaloosa AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family issues.

More Info on How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Tuscaloosa

Choose the Best Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist School

Selecting the right dental hygienist program is imperative if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively 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 typically require about 2 years of studies before they enter the work force. When obtaining a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.



 

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