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Find Dental Assistant Programs | How to Become a Dental Assistant near Muscle Shoals AL 35661

How to Select a Dental Assistant or Hygienist School near Muscle Shoals 35661

dental assistant training in Muscle Shoals ALSelecting the right dental assistant program near Muscle Shoals AL is an important first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the school with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider also, for instance the college’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial 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. However, dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these considerations and additional questions that you should be asking the colleges you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental hygienists and assistants and the training options provided.

The Job of Dental Assistants

Muscle Shoals dental assistant helping dentist 35661Dental assistants are an essential component of any Muscle Shoals dental office and can undertake a myriad of functions. Their fundamental job description is to provide assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. Some Alabama dental assistants choose to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for example periodontics. However most assistants carry out any job that they are asked to complete, including:

  • Setting and verifying appointments
  • Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
  • Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
  • Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
  • Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
  • Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
  • Purchasing dental and office supplies

Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so consult with the Alabama dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

The Function of Dental Hygienists

Muscle Shoals dental hygienist treating patient in AlabamaWhen comparing the job of a Muscle Shoals dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more on their own. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Alabama practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:

  • Removing tartar, stains and plaque
  • Applying fluoride treatments
  • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
  • Teaching patients about oral care
  • Taking X-rays and developing film
  • Removing sutures and applying fillings

In order to be licensed 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 Exam as well as any state licensing examinations. After they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options

Dental assistant programs are provided at Alabama community colleges along with vocational or technical schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about one year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. As a result of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are generally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take 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 vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with Muscle Shoals area dentists or dental practices.

Dental Online Classes

attending dental assistant school online in Muscle Shoals homeEnrolling in an online dental hygienist or assistant college may be a viable alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember 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 provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Muscle Shoals home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education far more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you might find that attending an dental online college is the right choice for you.

Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant or Hygienist Schools

Questions to ask Alabama dental colleges 35661After you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you want to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Muscle Shoals area programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many prospective students begin by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they search for several online alternatives as well. Although these may be important initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the Alabama programs 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 right dental school for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are several important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental hygienist or assistant college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement 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 establish that the training you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Muscle Shoals area employers typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not provided for non-accredited colleges.

Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just verify that the school you choose has the program that’s right for you. 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 Muscle Shoals area dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a school has an exceptional reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong accredited dental assistant program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are solely interested in a dental hygiene degree, obviously it would not be the ideal school for you.

Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an essential component of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. A number of Muscle Shoals area dental colleges have partnerships with area dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the program you enroll in provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are looking at sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the best method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a real Muscle Shoals dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.

Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most graduating students of dental assistant or hygiene programs need assistance landing their first job. Ask if the programs you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are Classrooms Small? Find out from the Alabama schools you are interested in how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal setting for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene and dental assistant schools can differ in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as 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 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 examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the 35661 area.

Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you must verify that the hygienist or assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and need to attend classes near Muscle Shoals in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.

Find the Right Dental School near Muscle Shoals AL

Selecting the right dental hygienist or dental assistant program is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives offered to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools normally receive either a certificate or an Associate Degree. Dental Assistants can be working in just nine months to a year, while Dental Hygienists usually require about two years of studies prior to entering the job market. When pursuing either a certificate or a degree you can choose to attend 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 better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.

 

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