How to Select a Dental Hygienist College near Whittier Alaska
Picking the ideal dental hygienist college near Whittier AK is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other important issues to consider as well, including the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most common dental assistant program usually takes about 1 year to complete for a diploma or certificate. However, dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental hygienists and assistants and the training options offered.
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Whittier AK practice, work 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 every patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in almost 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 as well as any state licensing exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an integral part of any Whittier AK dental office and can undertake a multitude of tasks. Their main job description is to give support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, such as periodontics. Even so most assistants perform any job that they are asked to complete, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Alaska dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
Dental Hygienist and Assistant Education Options
Dental assistant courses are available at Whittier AK area community colleges along with trade or vocational schools. The most common credential earned is the certificate, which generally takes about one year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more expansive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are generally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Whittier AK area vocational schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical aspect to the training also. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Hygienist Online Training Programs
Selecting an online dental hygienist college can be a good option for getting your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible via your personal computer in the comfort of your Whittier AK home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the right choice for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
After you have picked the dental specialty and type of credential you wish to attain, you can start the process of comparing Alaska schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they look for some online options also. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the Whittier AK area schools you are looking at in order to make 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 best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, 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. Employers in Whittier AK often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not available for non-accredited Alaska programs.
Is The Proper Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Alaska college you select offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, many Whittier AK dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a school has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental assistant program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are just interested in a dental hygiene degree, clearly it would not be the right college for you.
Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important component of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Many dental schools have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you choose 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 are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Whittier AK school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in an area dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental programs you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Whittier AK dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Many graduating students of dental hygiene programs require help getting their first job. Find out if the colleges you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Whittier AK dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Smaller? Ask the Alaska programs you are reviewing how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate environment for training where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial 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 analyzing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Whittier AK.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to make sure that the hygienist program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near your Whittier AK home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Why Did You Choose to Be a Dental Hygienist?When prepping to interview for a Dental Hygiene position, it's a good idea to consider questions you could be asked. Among the things that hiring managers often ask Dental Hygienist prospects is "What drove you to choose Hygiene as a career?". What the interviewer is hoping to uncover is not only the personal reasons you might have for being a Dental Hygienist, but also what characteristics and talents you have that make you exceptional at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating exclusively to Hygiene, as well as a significant number of general interview questions, so you need to prepare a number of strategies about how you want to address them. Since there are several variables that go into selecting a career, you can address this primary question in a multitude of ways. When readying an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession appeals to you in addition to the abilities you have that make you an outstanding Dental Hygienist and the best choice for the position. Don't attempt to memorize a response, but jot down several ideas and talking points that relate to your own experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample responses can assist you to formulate your own thoughts, and inspire ideas of what to include to wow the interviewer.
Enroll in the Ideal Dental Hygienist Program near Whittier AK
Picking the right dental hygienist program is important if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many options available to acquire your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking 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 start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Whittier AK.
A Bit About Whittier Alaska
Whittier is a city at the head of the Passage Canal in the U.S. state of Alaska, about 58 miles southeast of Anchorage. The city is within the Valdez–Cordova Census Area. The 2015 population estimate was 214 people, almost all of whom live in a single building. Whittier is also a port for the Alaska Marine Highway.
The region occupied by Whittier was once part of the portage route of the Chugach people native to Prince William Sound. Later, the passage was used by Russian and American explorers, and by prospecting miners during the gold rush. The nearby Whittier glacier was named for American poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1915, and the town eventually took the name as well.
During World War II, the United States Army constructed a military facility, complete with port and railroad near Whittier Glacier and named the facility Camp Sullivan. The spur of the Alaska Railroad to Camp Sullivan was completed in 1943 and the port became the entrance for United States soldiers into Alaska.
The two buildings that dominate the town were built after World War II. The 14-story Hodge Building (renamed Begich Towers) was completed in 1957 and contains 150 two- and three-bedroom apartments plus bachelor efficiency units. Dependent families and Civil Service employees were moved into this high-rise. The Whittier School was connected by a tunnel at the base of the west tower so students could safely access school on days with bad weather. The building was named in honor of Colonel Walter William Hodge, who was a civil engineer and the commanding officer of 93rd Engineer Regiment on the Alcan Highway.
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