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How to Select the Right Dental Hygienist Degree Program Near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist school near Fairbanks AK is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to consider also, including 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 complete. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

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The Role of Dental Hygienists

Fairbanks Alaska 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

Fairbanks Alaska Dental Hygienist cleaning plaque from young woman's teethEnrolling in an online dental hygienist school might be a good alternative for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Fairbanks AK home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened as well. The practical training can often be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the best option for you.

Subjects to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Fairbanks Alaska, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they search for several online options as well. Even though these may be relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, 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 instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Fairbanks AK employers often prefer or require that new hires 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 Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the program you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the program you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Fairbanks AK dental office that focuses on dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are considering have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to receive 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 look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges require help getting their first job. Find out if the programs you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Fairbanks AK dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classrooms Small? Find out from the colleges you are looking at how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the Fairbanks AK dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But besides 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Fairbanks AK area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near Fairbanks AK in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Fairbanks

Choose the Right Fairbanks Dental Hygienist Program

Choosing the right 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 options available to acquire 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, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs usually receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Fairbanks Alaska.



 

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