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How to Select the Best Dental Hygienist Program near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama dental hygienist checking patient's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist program near Birmingham AL is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must assess and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than choosing the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the program'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 lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Function of Dental Hygienists

Birmingham Alabama dental hygienist examining boy's teeth

When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Birmingham AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work 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 every patient's gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:

    • Removing tartar, stains and plaque
    • Applying fluoride treatments
    • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
    • Educating patients about oral hygiene
    • Taking and developing X-rays
    • Removing sutures and applying fillings

To qualify for licensing 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 Examination in addition to passing any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Training Options

Birmingham Alabama dental hygienist cleaning female patient's teethAs a result of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Birmingham AL dental offices are usually 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 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. Some programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.

Dental Hygienist Online Training Programs

Choosing an online dental hygienist program can be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Birmingham AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending school, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can typically be performed at an area dental office 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 mode of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the ideal option for you.

Learn More About Birmingham Dental Hygiene Schools

Subjects to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham AL, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they look for several online alternatives as well. Although these are important initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Birmingham AL dental practices often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not available for non-accredited programs.

Is Enough Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you choose offers enough 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, verify that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are considering have an internship program. Internships are probably the best means 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 develop professional relationships in the Birmingham AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Help Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges require assistance landing their first job. Check if the programs you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Birmingham AL dental community as well as large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classes Small? Find out from the programs you are interested in how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a few classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance departments, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you need to verify that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and have to go to classes near Birmingham AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.

Choose the Best Birmingham Dental Hygienist Training

great smile with white teeth by Birmingham Alabama dental hygienistPicking the right dental hygienist course is important if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed.  As you now know, there are several options available to receive your training and it takes a relatively 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 programs usually obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require about two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.

 

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