How to Pick a Dental Assistant or Hygienist College near Tuscaloosa 35401
Picking the ideal dental hygienist college near Tuscaloosa AL is an important initial 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 completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account also, for instance the college’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most typical dental assistant program usually takes about one year to complete for a diploma or certificate. However, dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an essential part of any Tuscaloosa dental practice and can perform a multitude of tasks. Their fundamental job description is to furnish assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Many Alabama dental assistants choose to specialize and acquire certification in a particular area, for example periodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any duty that they are asked to complete, including:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Alabama dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Role of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the job of a Tuscaloosa dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Alabama practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and report their results to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam as well as any state licensing exams. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist and Assistant Training Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at Alabama community colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Because of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in trade schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training also. Some programs also sponsor internships with Tuscaloosa area dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant or hygienist program might be a great alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The clinical training can usually be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to get the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you might find that attending an dental online school is the right option for you.
Points to Cover With Dental Hygienist or Assistant Colleges
When you have picked the dental specialty and kind of credential you want to earn, you can begin the process of comparing Tuscaloosa area schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for several online options as well. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the Alabama schools you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the ideal dental program for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant or hygienist program. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Tuscaloosa area employers typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not available for non-accredited schools.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make sure that the college you choose offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, the majority of Tuscaloosa area dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an exceptional 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 right school for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. A number of Tuscaloosa area dental schools have associations with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like 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 an area dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are exploring sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal means to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Tuscaloosa dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygiene or assistant programs require assistance landing their first job. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Ask the Alabama programs you are reviewing how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal environment for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant and dental hygiene programs can differ in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, don’t forget to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to find out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the 35401 area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental school, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near Tuscaloosa in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Find the Ideal Dental Program near Tuscaloosa ALChoosing the ideal dental hygienist or dental assistant course is crucial if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several options available to receive your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can obtain your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally receive either a certificate or an Associate Degree. Dental Assistants can be working in as little as nine months to a year, while Dental Hygienists generally require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the work force. When earning either a degree or a certificate you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training or credential you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist or assistant.