How to Enroll In the Right Dental Hygienist College near Opelika Alabama
Choosing the right dental hygienist program near Opelika AL is an important 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 picking the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account as well, 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 finish. Naturally with the longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's explore the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs available.
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and assists the Opelika AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are often the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient's teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Educating patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in nearly 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 fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Degree Options
As a result of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Opelika AL dental offices are normally 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 finish and must be accredited by the CDA in almost 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.
Dental Hygienist Online Colleges
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist program may be a good alternative for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can usually be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the right choice for you.
What to Ask Dental Hygienist Schools
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Opelika AL, you can start the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives as well. Even though these may be significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Opelika 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, often they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the program you select offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to get 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 develop professional relationships in the Opelika AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygienist programs need assistance obtaining their first job. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Opelika AL dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Smaller? Ask the schools you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can vary in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other significant costs 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 colleges, don't forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you must make sure that the hygienist or assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near Opelika AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Opelika Dental Hygienist Training
Picking the right dental hygienist program is crucial 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 several options available to acquire 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, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools normally earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately two years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.