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How to Select the Right Dental Hygiene Degree Program near Palmer Alaska

Palmer Alaska dental hygienist cleaning patient's teethPicking the right dental hygienist school near Palmer AK is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than choosing the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to take into account as well, for instance the school'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 complete. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these issues and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist programs you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let's review the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.

The Role of Dental Hygienists

Palmer Alaska dental hygienist checking child's teeth

When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. Dental assistants work with and assists the Palmer AK practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient's teeth and gums and present their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist's responsibilities can include:

    • Removing tartar, stains and plaque
    • Administering fluoride treatments
    • Polishing teeth and applying sealants
    • Educating patients about oral hygiene
    • Taking X-rays and developing film
    • Removing sutures and applying fillings

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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the "RDH" designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist Education Options

Palmer Alaska dental hygienist examining female patient's teethBecause of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in Palmer AK dental practices are normally 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 complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost 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 clinical aspect to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.

Online Dental Hygienist Programs

Selecting an online dental hygienist college may be a good option for getting your training. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the comfort of your Palmer AK home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the best choice for you.

Learn More About Palmer Dental Hygiene Schools

What to Cover With Dental  Hygienist Schools

Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Palmer AK, you can begin the procedure of comparing schools and programs. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students start by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they look for several online alternatives also. Although these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.

Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly 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 receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Palmer AK dental practices typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited colleges.

Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital portion of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Most dental hygienist programs have associations with regional dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It's not only important that the college you choose offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local Palmer AK dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are considering sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal method to get hands-on, practical 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 form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Many graduating students of dental hygienist programs require assistance landing their first job. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Palmer AK dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.

Are the Classrooms Smaller? Ask the colleges you are interested in how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the Palmer AK dental hygienist college that you are leaning toward in order to 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 schools can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial expenses 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 examining the cost of programs, don't forget to add all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Palmer AK area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental hygienist college, you must verify that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and have to attend classes near Palmer AK in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Pick the Best Palmer Dental Hygienist Program

smile with white teeth by Palmer Alaska dental hygienistChoosing the ideal dental hygienist program is imperative if you wish to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed.  As we have covered, there are numerous alternatives available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists normally require about 2 years of studies prior to entering the work force. When earning a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate selection. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Palmer Alaska.

 

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