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How to Find the Right Dental Hygienist Program near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama dental hygienist examining patient's teethChoosing the ideal dental hygienist college near Athens AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to consider as well, such as the school's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Naturally with the longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Role of a Dental Hygienist

Athens Alabama dental hygienist checking boy's teeth

When contrasting the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Athens AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's duties may include:

    • Removing plaque, tartar and stains
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
    • Instructing patients regarding oral hygiene
    • 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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered 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 female patient's teethBecause of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Athens AL dental practices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete 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 practical aspect to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Dental Hygienist Online Schools

Selecting an online dental hygienist college can be a viable alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Athens AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending school, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can usually be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to get the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this style of education, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the ideal choice for you.

Find Out More About Athens Dental Hygienist Schools

Issues to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Athens AL, you can begin the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they search for several online options as well. Although these may be relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Athens AL dental practices often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not available for non-accredited programs.

Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. Most dental hygienist programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form professional relationships in the Athens AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require assistance landing their first job. Ask if the schools you are considering have job assistance 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 profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classes Smaller? Find out from the colleges you are evaluating how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate environment for training where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can fluctuate in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to 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 schools, don't forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance departments, so make sure to find out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Athens AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you must make sure that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and must go to classes near Athens AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

Pick the Best Athens Dental Hygienist Program

big smile with clean teeth by Athens Alabama dental hygienistEnrolling in the ideal dental hygienist program is essential if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed.  As we have covered, there are many alternatives available to receive your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools generally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require about 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.

 

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