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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska Dental Hygienist examining young child's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist program near Anchorage AK is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than choosing the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account as well, including 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 2 to 3 years to complete. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these factors and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

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The Function of Dental Hygienists

Anchorage Alaska Dental Hygienist cleaning 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 Anchorage Alaska 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 Schooling 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 Programs

Anchorage Alaska Dental Hygienist removing plaque from woman's teethSelecting an online dental hygienist college may be a good option for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Anchorage AK home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the best choice for you.

Topics to Ask Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Anchorage Alaska, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online options also. Even though these are relevant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are reviewing in order to reach 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 ideal dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Anchorage AK employers typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited colleges.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential part of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist programs have associations with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you choose offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Anchorage AK dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to get 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 professional relationships in the Anchorage AK dentistry community. And they look good on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most 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 high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Anchorage AK dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Smaller? Find out from the colleges you are evaluating how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Anchorage AK dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. 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 examining the cost of programs, don't forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Anchorage AK area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you need to make sure that the hygienist or assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and must attend classes near Anchorage AK 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 procedure is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Anchorage

Pick the Right Anchorage Dental Hygienist School

Choosing the ideal dental hygienist program is imperative if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several 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 training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs usually receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When obtaining a degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Anchorage Alaska.



 

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