Search For Dental Assistant Schools | How to Become a Dental Hygienist near Alexandria VA 22301

How to Choose a Dental Assistant or Hygienist College near Alexandria 22301

dental assistant training in Alexandria VAChoosing the right dental hygienist school near Alexandria VA is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than selecting the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to consider as well, for instance the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to finish for a certificate or diploma. However, dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these issues and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the colleges you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental hygienists and assistants and the training options provided.

The Role of Dental Assistants

Alexandria dental assistant helping dentist 22301Dental assistants are an important part of any Alexandria dental office and can undertake a multitude of functions. Their principal job description is to give assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice working efficiently. A number of Virginia dental assistants choose to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for example periodontics. However the majority of assistants perform any duty that they are asked to complete, for example:

  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
  • Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
  • Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
  • Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
  • Prepping X-ray machines and handling X-rays
  • Purchasing dental and office supplies

Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so consult with the Virginia dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants handling X-ray machines more than likely will need to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

The Function of a Dental Hygienist

Alexandria dental hygienist treating patient in VirginiaWhen contrasting the job of a Alexandria dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Virginia practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:

  • Removing plaque, tartar and stains
  • Applying fluoride treatments
  • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
  • Educating patients regarding oral care
  • Taking X-rays and developing film
  • Applying fillings and removing sutures

To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options

Dental assistant programs are provided at Virginia junior colleges as well as vocational or technical schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are generally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical component to the training also. Some programs also sponsor internships with Alexandria area dental practices or dentists.

Dental Online Schools

attending dental assistant school online in Alexandria homeEnrolling in an online dental assistant or hygienist program might be a great alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Alexandria home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can typically be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental online program is the ideal choice for you.

What to Cover With Dental Assistant or Hygienist Schools

Questions to ask Virginia dental colleges 22301After you have picked the dental specialty and type of credential you would like to attain, you can begin the process of comparing Alexandria area programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they search for several online alternatives as well. Even though these are relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the Virginia programs you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental college for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist or assistant college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Alexandria area employers often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not available for non-accredited schools.

Is The Right Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the school you choose offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to have a career as a hygienist, many Alexandria area dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, bear in mind that even if a college has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental assistant program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are solely interested in a dental hygiene degree, naturally it would not be the ideal college for you.

Is Adequate Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Most Alexandria area dental colleges have partnerships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the school you select provides sufficient 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, verify that the program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a real Alexandria dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant or hygiene programs require help landing their first job. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.

Are Classrooms Small? Check with the Virginia programs you are evaluating how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the school that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene and dental assistant training can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant 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 comparing the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so make sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the 22301 area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must go to classes near Alexandria in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical 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 emergencies.

Choose the Ideal Dental College near Alexandria VA

Enrolling in the right dental assistant or dental hygienist course is important if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives available to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs normally obtain either an Associate Degree or a certificate. Dental Assistants can be practicing in as little as 9 months to a year, while Dental Hygienists normally require about two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining either a degree or a certificate you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of education or credential you elect to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.

 

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