How to Enroll In the Best Dental Hygiene Program near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Picking the right dental hygienist program near Vestavia Hills AL is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider as well, including the program's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Obviously with the prolonged training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these considerations and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist colleges you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs available.
The Role of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. Dental assistants work with and assists the Vestavia Hills AL practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient's gums and teeth and present their results to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist's duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Educating patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing 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 licensing examinations. Once they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the "RDH" designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Degree Options
Because of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Vestavia Hills AL dental practices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene rather than a certificate. These programs can take 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 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 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
Selecting an online dental hygienist college can be a good option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your personal computer in the convenience of your Vestavia Hills AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can usually be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to get the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the best choice for you.
What to Ask Dental Hygienist Colleges
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Vestavia Hills AL, you can start the procedure 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 colleges. Maybe they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these may be important initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the colleges you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement 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 ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Vestavia Hills AL dental practices often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Many dental hygienist colleges have partnerships with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the school you choose offers adequate 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, verify that the program you select offers clinical rotation in a local Vestavia Hills AL dental office that specializes in dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best method to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental hygienist programs need assistance landing their first job. Find out if the programs you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Vestavia Hills AL dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the colleges you are reviewing how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the Vestavia Hills AL dental hygienist school that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Entire 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 example 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 examining the cost of colleges, don't forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to ask what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the Vestavia Hills AL area.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and need to go to classes near Vestavia Hills AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Vestavia Hills Dental Hygienist Program
Enrolling in the right dental hygienist program is crucial if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives available to obtain your education 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 community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools typically obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require about two years of studies before they enter the job market. When pursuing a degree you can elect to attend 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 as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Vestavia Hills Alabama.