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How to Find the Right Dental Hygiene Training Program Near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning young child's teethChoosing the ideal dental hygienist school near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential initial 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 college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your home. There are other significant factors to consider also, such as the college'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 two to three years to accomplish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges 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 Role of a Dental Hygienist

Tuscaloosa 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 Education 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.

Online Dental Hygienist Colleges

Tuscaloosa Alabama Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist college can be a great alternative for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education far more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition fees than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can usually be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the ideal choice for you.

Questions to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama, you can start the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they look for several online alternatives also. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental school 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 job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not offered for non-accredited programs.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have relationships with regional dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are considering have an internship program. Internships are probably the ideal means to receive 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 build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require help obtaining their first job. Check if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Small? Find out from the programs you are interested in how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the Tuscaloosa 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 making a commitment.

 What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to verify that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and need to attend classes near Tuscaloosa AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, 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 need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

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Pick the Right Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist School

Selecting the ideal dental hygienist program is crucial if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several alternatives available to receive your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.



 

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