How to Choose a Dental Hygienist College in Arizona
Selecting the ideal dental hygienist school in Arizona is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than picking the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other crucial issues to take into account also, for instance the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about one year to finish for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand, dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you should be asking the schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s review the roles of both dental hygienists and assistants and the training options offered.
The Role of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Arizona practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first 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 responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. When they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
The Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an integral part of any Arizona dental practice and can perform a myriad of functions. Their principal job description is to provide support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice running successfully. Some dental assistants opt to specialize and receive certification in a particular area, for instance pediatrics. However the majority of assistants carry out any duty that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so consult with the Arizona dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. Many dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
Dental Hygienist and Assistant Education Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at Arizona community colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are normally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in Arizona trade schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training as well. A number of programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Hygienist Online Colleges
Enrolling in an online dental hygienist program may be a good alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Arizona home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental programs make education much more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical training can typically be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this style of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the right choice for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Hygienist Colleges
After you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you wish to earn, you can start the procedure of comparing Arizona schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they search for several online options also. Although these are significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental hygienist college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in almost all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Arizona often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Arizona colleges.
Is The Right Dental Program Available? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the Arizona college you select offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, a large number of Arizona dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are available. However, bear in mind that even if a college has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a solid accredited dental assistant program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are primarily interested in a dental hygiene degree, naturally it would not be the ideal school for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary component of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Most dental programs have associations with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the school you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the Arizona college you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental programs you are looking at sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Arizona dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Most graduating students of dental hygiene colleges need help getting their first job. Check if the programs you are considering 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 Arizona dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the Arizona programs you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate environment for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can monitor a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, don’t forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Arizona.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental college, you need to confirm that the hygienist program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and must go to classes near your Arizona home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still need to schedule your clinical 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.
Find the Right Dental Hygienist College in Arizona
Enrolling in the right dental hygienist program is essential if you want to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives offered to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental hygienist. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools typically earn an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists typically require about two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When earning a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking 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 start your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Arizona.