How to Choose the Best Dental Hygiene College near Birmingham Alabama
Picking the ideal dental hygienist college near Birmingham AL is an important first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the training with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to take into account as well, such as the program'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 accomplish. Obviously with the longer training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these issues and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Birmingham AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one 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 responsibilities may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in almost 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 as well as any state licensure exams. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Training Options
Because of the added 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 take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are offered in trade and vocational schools as well as community colleges. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Hygienist Online Training
Choosing an online dental hygienist program may be a great alternative for getting your training. Just remember that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Birmingham AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can usually be performed at a community 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 dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the right choice for you.
What to Cover With Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Birmingham AL, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they search for some online options also. Even though these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Birmingham AL dental practices often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital component of any 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 furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only essential that the school you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Birmingham AL dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental schools you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal means to get hands-on, clinical 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 create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require help obtaining their first job. Check if the programs you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Birmingham AL dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Smaller? Ask the programs you are evaluating how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more personal setting for training where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Birmingham AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can differ in cost based on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private 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 examining the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Birmingham AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must make sure that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and need to go to classes near Birmingham AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select 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 issues.
Choose the Best Birmingham Dental Hygienist Training
Selecting the ideal dental hygienist program is important if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous alternatives available to receive your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When earning a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Birmingham Alabama.