How to Pick a Dental Assistant or Hygienist College near Montgomery 36101
Picking the ideal dental assistant school near Montgomery AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than picking the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, including the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you are willing to commit. The most typical dental assistant program generally takes about 1 year to finish for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand, dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the programs you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential component of any Montgomery dental practice and can perform a wide range of functions. Their fundamental job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. A number of Alabama dental assistants elect to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, such as orthodontics. Even so most assistants perform any duty that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so check with the Alabama dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Many dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the role of a Montgomery dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Alabama practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in nearly 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. Once they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Alabama junior colleges along with vocational or technical schools. The most common credential acquired is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Due to the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are normally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually 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 clinical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also offer internships with Montgomery area dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Training
Enrolling in an online dental assistant or hygienist college can be a viable option for obtaining your training. Just remember 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 Montgomery home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The clinical training can typically be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to get the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an dental online school is the ideal choice for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Hygienist or Assistant Schools
Once you have selected the dental specialization and type of credential you wish to earn, you can start the process of comparing Montgomery area programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they search for several online options as well. Although these may be relevant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the Alabama programs you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the ideal dental college for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant or hygienist school. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Montgomery area employers typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not available for non-accredited schools.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the college you decide on offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to have a career as a hygienist, a large number of Montgomery area dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that even if a college has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a strong accredited dental assistant program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are just interested in a dental hygiene degree, clearly it would not be the right college for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. A number of Montgomery area dental colleges have partnerships with local dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the program you choose provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real Montgomery 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 are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Many graduating students of dental assistant or hygiene schools need assistance obtaining their first job. Check if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Small? Ask the Alabama schools you are interested in how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene and dental assistant programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also have an impact. 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 comparing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to find out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the 36101 area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and must attend classes near Montgomery at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Select the Right Dental School near Montgomery ALSelecting the ideal dental hygienist or dental assistant 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 a number of options available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become either a dental assistant or hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs normally receive either a certificate or an Associate Degree. Dental Assistants can be practicing in as little as 9 months to a year, while Dental Hygienists typically require roughly 2 years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining either a degree or a certificate you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist or assistant.