How to Pick a Dental Assistant College in Alabama
Selecting the ideal dental assistant training in Alabama is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other significant issues to take into account also, such as the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of money and time that you are willing to invest. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to finish for a diploma or certificate. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any Alabama dental practice and can undertake a multitude of tasks. Their principal job description is to give support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. A number of dental assistants elect to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, for instance pediatrics. However most assistants perform any job that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so consult with the Alabama dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Alabama practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients about oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- 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, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Alabama community colleges as well as vocational or technical schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about one year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. Because of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are often 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 virtually every state. They are also offered in Alabama trade schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Many programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant college might be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Alabama home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can often be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to get the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the right choice for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have selected the dental specialization and type of credential you want to attain, you can begin the process of comparing Alabama programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they look for some online options as well. Even though these are relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are many valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant school. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Alabama typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not obtainable for non-accredited Alabama colleges.
Is The Proper Dental Program Available? You can opt to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Alabama school you decide on has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, many Alabama dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a college has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are only interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the best college for you.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Most dental programs have partnerships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you choose offers enough 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, confirm that the Alabama college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are considering have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real Alabama dental practice. They make it easier for 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 Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant schools need assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Alabama dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are Classes Small? Ask the Alabama colleges you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant training can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as 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 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 programs, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to find out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Alabama.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and must go to classes near your Alabama home 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 practice is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family issues.
Find the Right Dental Assistant School in Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental assistant course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives available to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require approximately one year of study prior to entering the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training or credential you elect 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 start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Alabama.