How to Choose the Best Dental Hygienist School near Helena Alabama
Picking the ideal dental hygienist program near Helena AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant issues 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 accomplish. Obviously with the longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.
The Function of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Helena AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's teeth and gums and present their findings to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Education Options
Due to the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Helena 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 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 aspect to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Hygienist Online Training
Choosing an online dental hygienist college might be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Helena AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened as well. The practical training can typically be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the best choice for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Hygienist Schools
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Helena AL, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Maybe they look for some online alternatives also. Even though these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, 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 a number of good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually 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 get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Helena AL dental practices frequently desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not provided for non-accredited schools.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important part of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. A number of dental hygienist schools have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college 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, make sure that the program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Helena AL dental office that specializes in dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are evaluating sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best method to obtain hands-on, clinical 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 establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require help getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Helena AL dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the colleges you are evaluating how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal environment for training where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Helena AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Helena AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while getting your education and need to go to classes near Helena AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Helena Dental Hygienist Courses
Enrolling in the ideal dental hygienist course is important if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of alternatives available to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Helena Alabama.