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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene School Near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska Dental Hygienist examining young boy's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist college near Fairbanks AK is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than selecting the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial issues to consider also, for instance the program'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 finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

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The Job of Dental Hygienists

Fairbanks Alaska Dental Hygienist cleaning 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 Training Programs

Fairbanks Alaska Dental Hygienist removing tartar from young woman's teethChoosing an online dental hygienist school might be a good option for getting your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Fairbanks AK home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And additional 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 practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal option for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Fairbanks Alaska, you can begin the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they search for some online alternatives also. Although these are important initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program 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 desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not available for non-accredited colleges.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential component of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Many dental hygienist schools have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Fairbanks AK dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the best means to get 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 create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Many graduating students of dental hygienist colleges need assistance getting their first job. Find out if the programs you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Fairbanks AK dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Small? Ask the schools you are interested in how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the Fairbanks AK dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other significant 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 examining the cost of schools, don't forget to include all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Fairbanks AK area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to make sure that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to go to classes near Fairbanks AK at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family issues.

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Choose the Best Fairbanks Dental Hygienist School

Picking the ideal dental hygienist course is crucial if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of options available to receive your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require roughly two years of studies before they enter the work force. When earning a degree you can elect to go to 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 appropriate choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Fairbanks Alaska.



 

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