How to Find the Right Dental Assistant or Hygienist School near Birmingham 35201
Choosing the ideal dental assistant training near Birmingham AL is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your home. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, including the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specializations 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 normally takes about one year to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand, dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the programs you are assessing later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental hygienists and assistants and the training options offered.
The Job of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an integral part of any Birmingham dental office and can perform a wide range of functions. Their fundamental job description is to furnish support to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. A number of Alabama dental assistants opt to specialize and acquire certification in a particular area, for instance orthodontics. Even so most assistants perform any task that they are called upon to fulfill, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so check with the Alabama dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be certified and licensed. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Function of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the role of a Birmingham dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Alabama practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and report their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed 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 Exam as well as any state licensure examinations. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist & Assistant Education Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at Alabama community colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most common credential earned is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about a year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical component to the training also. A number of programs also offer internships with Birmingham area dental practices or dentists.
Dental Online Training Programs
Choosing an online dental hygienist or assistant college can be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Birmingham home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you might find that attending an dental online program is the ideal choice for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Assistant or Hygienist Programs
When you have decided on the dental specialization and type of credential you want to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Birmingham area schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they look for several online options as well. Even though these are important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the Alabama schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the best dental program for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental hygienist or assistant school. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Birmingham area employers frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Available? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the school you decide on has the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, most Birmingham area dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a college has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a solid accredited dental assistant program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are primarily interested in a dental hygiene degree, obviously it would not be the best school for you.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a necessary component of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of Birmingham area dental colleges have associations with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the school you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are looking at sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real Birmingham dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most graduating students of dental hygiene or assistant schools require help obtaining their first job. Check if the schools you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Ask the Alabama colleges you are evaluating how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a few classes at the school that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental assistant and dental hygiene schools can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other significant costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the 35201 area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental college, you need to make sure that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must attend classes near Birmingham in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Find the Ideal Dental College near Birmingham ALSelecting the right dental assistant or dental hygienist program is crucial if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous options available to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs typically receive either an Associate Degree or a certificate. Dental Assistants can be working in as little as 9 months to a year, while Dental Hygienists normally require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When pursuing either a degree or a certificate you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.