How to Find the Best Dental Hygienist Degree Program near Gulf Shores Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist school near Gulf Shores AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to performing 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 crucial issues to consider also, including the program'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 two to three years to accomplish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these issues and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's look at the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs available.
The Role of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and assists the Gulf Shores AL dentists and the practice. 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 sees when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Teaching patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
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 in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. Once they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Training Options
As a result of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Gulf Shores AL dental offices are often 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 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 practical component to the training as well. Many programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Hygienist Training Programs
Choosing an online dental hygienist college may be a viable alternative for getting your education. Just remember that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Gulf Shores AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The practical training can often be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the best option for you.
Questions to Ask Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Gulf Shores AL, you can start the process of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these are important initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the schools you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition 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 guarantee that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Gulf Shores AL dental practices typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not offered for non-accredited programs.
Is Plenty of Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Most dental hygienist colleges have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you choose provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Gulf Shores AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are looking at sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to obtain 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 form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require assistance landing their first job. Ask if the colleges you are looking at 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 Gulf Shores AL dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Check with the programs you are interested in how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Gulf Shores AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also have an impact. 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 expenses associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to find out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Gulf Shores AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near Gulf Shores AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Gulf Shores Dental Hygienist Training
Picking the ideal dental hygienist course is imperative if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives available to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period 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 schools usually obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the right selection. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Gulf Shores Alabama.