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How to Choose the Right Dental Hygienist Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist examining man's teethSelecting the ideal dental hygienist college near Tuscaloosa AL is an important first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than picking the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account as well, such as the college's reputation and accreditation. Dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the longer training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.

The Role of Dental Hygienists

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist examining child's teeth

When contrasting the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and in support of 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 frequently the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine each 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 responsibilities may include:

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

In order to be licensed in almost 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 licensing exams. After they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Degree Options

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist examining female patient's teethDue to the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Tuscaloosa AL dental practices are normally 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 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 clinical component to the training as well. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Online Dental Hygienist Programs

Enrolling in an online dental hygienist program may be a viable option for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your personal computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical 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 proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the best option for you.

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Points to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa AL, you can begin the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they search for some online alternatives also. Although these are relevant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. In order 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. Tuscaloosa AL dental practices frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not provided for non-accredited programs.

Is Adequate Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Many dental hygienist colleges have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only essential that the school you enroll in 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 have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you select offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are exploring have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to receive hands-on, clinical 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 working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools need help landing their first job. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the programs you are reviewing how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal atmosphere for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist college that you are most interested in in order to experience 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 dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of colleges, don't forget to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

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

Pick the Right Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist Program

great smile with clean teeth by Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienistChoosing the ideal dental hygienist program is imperative if you intend to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed.  As you now know, there are a number of options available to receive your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal education through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs generally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require roughly two years of studies before they enter the work force. When earning a degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the best selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

 

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