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How to Find the Best Dental Hygienist Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist examining man's teethSelecting the right dental hygienist college near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant issues to take into account as well, for instance the program's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Naturally with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist programs you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let's look at the roles of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.

The Role of a Dental Hygienist

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist examining boy's teeth

When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Tuscaloosa AL dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient's teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities can include:

    • Removing stains, tartar and plaque
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
    • Educating patients about oral hygiene
    • Taking X-rays and developing film
    • 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 Examination as well as any state licensing examinations. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Training Options

Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienist cleaning woman's teethBecause of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Tuscaloosa AL dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete 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. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Online Dental Hygienist Colleges

Selecting an online dental hygienist program may 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 practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Tuscaloosa AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The practical training can usually be completed 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 dedication for this mode of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the right option for you.

Learn More About Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist Degree Programs

Topics to Ask Dental  Hygienist Colleges

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa AL, you can start the procedure of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students start by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for some online alternatives as well. Even though these are relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in almost 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 education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Tuscaloosa AL dental practices often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not available for non-accredited schools.

Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of any dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Most dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only essential that the college you enroll in provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental colleges you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective method to get hands-on, practical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa AL dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Help Offered? Most graduating students of dental hygienist colleges require assistance obtaining their first job. Find out if the programs you are looking at 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 community in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Small? Ask the colleges you are reviewing how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a few classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.

 What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, don't forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must make sure that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and need to attend classes near Tuscaloosa AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family issues.

Pick the Best Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist Courses

big smile with clean teeth by Tuscaloosa Alabama dental hygienistChoosing the right dental hygienist program is crucial if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed.  As we have covered, there are numerous alternatives offered to receive your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can obtain your formal training through dental hygienist programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally receive an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require approximately 2 years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing 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 begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

 

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