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How to Enroll In the Right Dental Hygienist Program near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama dental hygienist cleaning patient's teethChoosing the right dental hygienist college near Opelika AL is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than picking the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other crucial issues to take into account as well, such as the program's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are looking at later in this article. But first, let's review the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Duties of a Dental Hygienist

Opelika Alabama dental hygienist examining boy's teeth

When comparing the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Opelika AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient's gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities can include:

    • Removing stains, tartar and plaque
    • Applying fluoride treatments
    • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
    • Instructing patients about oral care
    • Taking X-rays and developing film
    • Removing sutures and applying fillings

In order to be licensed 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 licensing examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Education Options

Opelika Alabama dental hygienist checking female patient's teethBecause of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Opelika AL dental offices are generally 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 finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly 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 component to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.

Dental Hygienist Online Training

Selecting an online dental hygienist program might be a great alternative for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Opelika AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot 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 lessened also. The clinical training can often 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 appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the right choice for you.

Find Out More About Opelika Dental Hygienist Courses

Subjects to Cover With 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 opening of this article, many students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online options also. Although these are significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. In order to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental school 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. Opelika AL dental practices often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not offered for non-accredited schools.

Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have associations with local dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only essential that the school you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Opelika AL dental office that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Many students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs require assistance getting their first job. Ask if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Opelika AL dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classes Small? Ask the programs you are evaluating how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the Opelika AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene schools can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But besides 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 comparing the cost of colleges, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Opelika AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and must attend classes near Opelika AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.

Pick the Right Opelika Dental Hygienist Program

big smile with white teeth by Opelika Alabama dental hygienistChoosing the right dental hygienist course is crucial if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed.  As we have covered, there are a number of alternatives available to receive your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal education through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools generally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require approximately two years of studies before they enter the work force. When obtaining a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Opelika Alabama.

 

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