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How to Select the Best Dental Hygiene Degree Program near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama dental hygienist cleaning patient's teethPicking the ideal dental hygienist program near Pelham AL is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial issues to take into account also, including the college's reputation and accreditation. 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 longer training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these factors and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Function of a Dental Hygienist

Pelham Alabama dental hygienist cleaning boy's teeth

When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Pelham AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting area. They examine each 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 duties can include:

    • Removing plaque, tartar and stains
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
    • 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 have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Training Options

Pelham Alabama dental hygienist examining female patient's teethAs a result of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Pelham AL dental offices 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 finish 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 dental practices or dentists.

Dental Hygienist Online Schools

Choosing an online dental hygienist college can be a viable alternative for receiving your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Pelham AL home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental programs make education much more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition fees than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the best choice for you.

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Questions to Ask Dental  Hygienist Programs

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Pelham AL, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they look for several online alternatives also. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are looking at in order to reach 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 best dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in almost all states. To qualify 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 instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Pelham AL dental practices often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited schools.

Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Many dental hygienist schools have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It's not only important that the program you select offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like 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 Pelham AL dental office that specializes in dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the Pelham AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools need help obtaining their first job. Find out if the schools you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Pelham AL dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Small? Find out from the programs you are reviewing how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes tend to be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the Pelham AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.

 What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. 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 materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Pelham AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you need to verify that the assistant or hygienist program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and need to attend classes near Pelham AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.

Choose the Right Pelham Dental Hygienist Training

great smile with clean teeth by Pelham Alabama dental hygienistPicking the ideal dental hygienist program is important if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed.  As you now know, there are numerous alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal education through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools usually obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists usually require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When obtaining a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Pelham Alabama.

 

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