How to Select the Right Dental Hygienist Degree Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Choosing the right dental hygienist school near Tuscaloosa AL is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to take into account also, such as the program'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 accomplish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs offered.
The Function of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and in support of the Tuscaloosa AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient's gums and teeth and present their results to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in nearly 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 exams. After they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Education Options
Due to the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Tuscaloosa AL dental offices are often 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 nearly every state. They are offered in trade and vocational schools as well as community colleges. And in addition to classroom studies learning the fundamentals of dental hygiene, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Hygienist Classes
Choosing an online dental hygienist school can be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Tuscaloosa AL home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can typically be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the right choice for you.
Issues 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 schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they search for some online alternatives also. Even though these are important initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should address to the schools you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Tuscaloosa AL dental practices often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary portion of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of dental hygienist colleges have associations with local dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only important that the school you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental office that specializes in dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are exploring have internship programs. Internships are probably the most effective means to get 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 as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist schools require help obtaining their first job. Ask if the schools you are looking at 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 Tuscaloosa AL dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Small? Ask the programs you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene training can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, don't forget to add all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to find out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you need to confirm that the hygienist or assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and need to go to classes near Tuscaloosa AL in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, 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 need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist Training
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist program is imperative if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs normally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.