How to Pick the Best Dental Hygienist Degree Program near Fairfield Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist college near Fairfield AL is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must examine and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other significant factors to take into account as well, including the school's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.
The Role of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Fairfield AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in almost 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensing exams. When they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Training Options
Because of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Fairfield AL dental offices are normally required to have 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 nearly 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. Many programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Hygienist Colleges
Choosing an online dental hygienist program might be a viable option for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Fairfield AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to get the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the right option for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Fairfield AL, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they search for several online options as well. Even though these may be important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly 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 guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Fairfield AL dental practices often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist schools have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you enroll in provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Fairfield AL dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are exploring sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to receive 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 build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist colleges need assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the schools you are considering 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 Fairfield AL dental community in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Smaller? Check with the programs you are looking at how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, bigger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the Fairfield AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial 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 examining the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Fairfield AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near Fairfield AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still be required 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 work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Fairfield Dental Hygienist Program
Selecting the right dental hygienist program is crucial if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several options available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining 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 by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Fairfield Alabama.