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How to Choose the Right Dental Hygiene College near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama dental hygienist examining man's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist program near Hartselle AL is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than choosing the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your residence. There are other important factors to consider as well, including the school's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Duties of Dental Hygienists

Hartselle Alabama dental hygienist checking boy's teeth

When comparing the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Hartselle AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and present their results to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:

    • Removing stains, tartar and plaque
    • Applying fluoride treatments
    • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
    • Educating patients about oral care
    • Taking and developing X-rays
    • 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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Degree Options

Hartselle Alabama dental hygienist examining female patient's teethDue to the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Hartselle AL dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost 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 practical component to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Online Dental Hygienist Schools

Choosing an online dental hygienist school can be a good option for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Hartselle AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can often be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this style of education, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal option for you.

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Questions to Ask Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Hartselle AL, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they look for some online alternatives as well. Even though these are important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Hartselle AL dental practices frequently 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 obtainable for non-accredited colleges.

Is Enough Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist schools have associations with local dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the program you enroll in provides adequate 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, confirm that the college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Hartselle AL dental office that focuses on dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to obtain hands-on, practical 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 establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygienist schools need help landing their first job. Find out if the schools you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Hartselle AL dental community in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classrooms Small? Find out from the schools you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the Hartselle AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene training can vary in cost depending on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, don't forget to include all of the expenses related to 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 Hartselle AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and have to go to classes near Hartselle AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, 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 illness, work or family responsibilities.

Choose the Right Hartselle Dental Hygienist Courses

big smile with white teeth by Hartselle Alabama dental hygienistEnrolling in the right dental hygienist program is imperative 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 numerous options available to obtain your training 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, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Hartselle Alabama.

 

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