How to Find the Best Dental Hygiene Degree Program near Decatur Alabama
Picking the right dental hygienist college near Decatur AL is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than picking the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account also, such as the college's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists usually 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 more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you need to 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 available.
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting 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 in support of the Decatur AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient's teeth and gums and report their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in nearly 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 Examination as well as any state licensing examinations. After 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
Because of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Decatur AL dental practices are often 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 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 aspect to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Hygienist Colleges
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist college can be a good option for receiving your education. Just remember that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Decatur AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to college, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional competitors. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical training can usually be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to get the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Cover With Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Decatur AL, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they search for several online alternatives as well. Even though these may be important initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually 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 establish that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Decatur AL dental practices often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited colleges.
Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. Many dental hygienist programs have associations with local dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you enroll in offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the program you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Decatur AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental programs you are considering sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the best method 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 professional relationships in the Decatur AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many graduating students of dental hygienist programs need help landing their first job. Ask if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Decatur AL dental profession as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Small? Ask the schools you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the Decatur AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, don't forget to add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance offices, so make sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Decatur AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and have to go to classes near Decatur AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Decatur Dental Hygienist Courses
Enrolling in the ideal dental hygienist program is crucial if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to receive your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs generally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require about two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to 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 appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Decatur Alabama.