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How to Enroll In the Best Dental Hygienist College near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist cleaning patient's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist school near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must 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 program that is closest to your residence. There are other significant issues to consider as well, such as 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 finish. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's explore the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Duties of a Dental Hygienist

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist checking boy's teeth

When comparing 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 Tuscaloosa AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities may include:

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

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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. Once they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Education Options

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist cleaning female patient's teethBecause of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Tuscaloosa AL dental offices are generally required to hold 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. A number of programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.

Online Dental Hygienist Training Programs

Enrolling in an online dental hygienist program might be a viable option for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The practical training can often be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to get the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal choice for you.

Learn More About Tuscaloosa Dental Hygiene Degrees

Points to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa AL, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for several online alternatives also. Even though these may be significant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite 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. Tuscaloosa AL dental practices often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the program you choose provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.

Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective way to obtain hands-on, practical 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 form professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa AL dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many graduating students of dental hygienist schools require help landing their first job. Check if the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.

Are Classrooms Small? Find out from the colleges you are evaluating how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal atmosphere for training where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.

 What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene programs can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools 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 analyzing the cost of colleges, don't forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist school, you must confirm that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must attend classes near Tuscaloosa AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Choose the Right Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist Program

great smile with white teeth by Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienistPicking the ideal dental hygienist program is important if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed.  As you now know, there are several options 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 junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs generally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require roughly two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

 

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