How to Choose the Best Dental Hygiene School near Athens Alabama
Choosing the right dental hygienist program near Athens AL is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, including the school's reputation and accreditation. 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 complete. Obviously with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
The Function of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and assists the Athens AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in nearly 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 Examination as well as any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Degree Options
Because of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Athens AL dental offices are normally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take 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 community colleges as well as trade and technical schools. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Hygienist Online Training
Choosing an online dental hygienist program can be a good alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Athens AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can often be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Athens AL, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they search for some online alternatives also. Even though these may be important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, 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 typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an important portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical 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 ultimately want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Athens AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective method to get hands-on, practical experience in a real 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 Athens AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many graduating students of dental hygienist programs need help getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Athens AL dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the programs you are evaluating how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a few classes at the Athens AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. 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 colleges, don't forget to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Athens AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and need to go to classes near Athens AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Pick the Right Athens Dental Hygienist Training
Picking the ideal dental hygienist program is imperative if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to receive your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Athens Alabama.