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How to Choose the Right Dental Hygienist College near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama dental hygienist checking man's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist college near Athens AL is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than selecting the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider also, including the college'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 two to three years to accomplish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's explore the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Athens Alabama dental hygienist cleaning child's teeth

When comparing the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Athens AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient's gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities can include:

    • Removing stains, tartar and plaque
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
    • Instructing patients about oral care
    • Taking and developing X-rays
    • Removing sutures and applying fillings

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 must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam as well as any state licensure examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Degree Options

Athens Alabama dental hygienist cleaning woman's teethBecause of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Athens AL dental offices are often required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. 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 offered in trade and technical schools as well as community colleges. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Dental Hygienist Online Classes

Enrolling in an online dental hygienist college might be a good option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely 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 comfort of your Athens AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to school, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The practical training can typically be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the best option for you.

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Issues to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Athens AL, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they search for several online alternatives as well. Although these are significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the programs you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Athens AL dental practices often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not offered for non-accredited colleges.

Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential part of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist colleges have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental office that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental programs you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real 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 as well.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need help getting their first job. Check if the programs you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Athens AL dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Smaller? Ask the programs you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can differ in cost dependent on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Athens AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you need to make sure that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and must go to classes near Athens AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.

Pick the Right Athens Dental Hygienist Courses

smile with clean teeth by Athens Alabama dental hygienistEnrolling in the ideal dental hygienist course is essential if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated 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 junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require about 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.

 

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