How to Enroll In the Right Dental Hygienist College Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Selecting the right dental hygienist school near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than picking the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to take into account as well, such as the school's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists usually 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 longer training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these issues and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
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The Job of Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care under a dentist's supervision. They clean patients' teeth and examine their mouths for signs of damage, gingivitis, and other diseases. Hygienists teach patients how to maintain good oral health. They also schedule appointments and keep records and may take and develop X-rays. Their scope of practice, which is the list of services they are legally allowed to deliver, differs according to the regulations of the state in which they practice. Dental hygienists generally are required to perform duties that include the following:
- Complete a preliminary exam on each new dental service patient
- Clean and remove stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth
- Apply fluorides and sealants for tooth protection
- Take dental x-rays and develop them
- Administer local anesthetics to patients
- Document treatment plans and care performed on patients
- Examine each patient's oral health and communicate findings to dentists
- Educate patients on how to care for their teeth with good oral hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing
Dental Hygienist Schooling and LicensingDental 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
Choosing an online dental hygienist program might be a viable option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to get the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the right option for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama, you can start the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for some online alternatives also. Even though these are relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your evaluation 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 choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition 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 training you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Tuscaloosa AL employers often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not offered for non-accredited schools.
Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Many dental hygienist colleges have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only essential that the program you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental programs you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal means to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need assistance landing their first job. Find out if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Ask the programs you are evaluating how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, don't forget to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and must go to classes near Tuscaloosa AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Pick the Right Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist School
Choosing the right 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 several options available to receive your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs usually earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require roughly 2 years of studies prior to entering the work force. 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 better prepared to make the ideal selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.