How to Select a Dental Assistant Program near Decatur Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental assistant program near Decatur AL is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to consider as well, such as the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to finish for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s review the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Duties of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an important component of any Decatur AL dental office and can perform a variety of duties. Their principal job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working efficiently. A number of dental assistants elect to specialize and acquire certification in a specific area, such as orthodontics. Even so most assistants perform any duty that they are called upon to complete, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so consult with the Alabama dental board for your state’s mandates. 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) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Decatur AL practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and present their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients about oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in almost 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 Examination as well as any state licensure examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are available at Alabama community colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential earned is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Because of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in Decatur AL dental practices are generally 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 nearly every state. They are also offered in Alabama trade schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. Many programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Schools
Choosing an online dental assistant school might be a great alternative for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Decatur AL home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The practical training can typically be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online program is the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
After you have selected the dental specialization and type of credential you would like to attain, you can begin the process of comparing Alabama schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Maybe they look for several online options also. Although these are important initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the Decatur AL area programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Decatur AL typically desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited Alabama programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can opt to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make sure that the Alabama college you choose has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Decatur AL dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that just because a school has a good reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the best school for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Many dental programs have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Decatur AL area school you select offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the best way to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Decatur AL dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs need help obtaining their first job. Find out if the schools 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 Decatur AL dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Check with the Decatur AL area schools you are evaluating how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal atmosphere for training where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a few classes at the school that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Decatur AL.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental college, you must make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and have to go to classes near your Decatur AL home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Why Did You Desire to Be a Dental Assistant?When prepping to interview for a Dental Assistant position, it's a good idea to review questions you may be asked. One of the questions that hiring managers typically ask Dental Assisting prospects is "What drove you to select Assisting as a career?". What the interviewer is attempting to discover is not merely the private reasons you might have for being a Dental Assistant, but also what attributes and abilities you possess that make you good at what you do. You will probably be asked questions relating specifically to Assisting, in addition to a certain number of routine interview questions, so you should ready several strategies about how you want to address them. Because there are several factors that go into selecting a career, you can address this fundamental question in a number of ways. When readying an answer, attempt to include the reasons the profession interests you along with the strengths you possess that make you an excellent Dental Assistant and the leading choice for the position. Don't try to memorize a response, but write down some ideas and talking points that relate to your personal strengths and experiences. Reviewing sample responses can assist you to develop your own thoughts, and inspire ideas of what to include to wow the recruiter.
Enroll in the Best Dental Assistant Program near Decatur AL
Picking the right dental assistant course is crucial if you want to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of options available to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools normally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require approximately 1 year of study prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you choose 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 begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Decatur AL.
Tell Me About Decatur Alabama
Decatur is a city in Morgan and Limestone counties in the State of Alabama. The city, nicknamed "The River City", is located in Northern Alabama on the banks of Wheeler Lake, along the Tennessee River. It is the largest city and county seat of Morgan County. The population in 2010 was 55,683.
Decatur is also the core city of the two-county large Decatur, Alabama metropolitan area which had an estimated population of 153,374 in 2013. Combined with the Huntsville Metropolitan Area, the two create the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, of which Decatur is the second-largest city.
Like many southern cities in the early 19th century, Decatur's early success was based upon its location along a river. Railroad routes and boating traffic pushed the city to the front of North Alabama's economic atmosphere. The city rapidly grew into a large economic center within the Tennessee Valley and was a hub for travelers and cargo between Nashville and Mobile, as well as Chattanooga and New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth, but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by the fast-growing Huntsville during the space race. The city now finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing, cargo transit, and high-tech industries such as General Electric and United Launch Alliance.
Initially the area was known as "Rhodes Ferry Landing", named for Dr. Henry W. Rhodes, an early landowner who operated a ferry that crossed the Tennessee River in the 1810s at the present-day location of Rhodes Ferry Park. The city was incorporated as Decatur in 1821. It was named in honor of Stephen Decatur; after he was killed in a duel in 1820, President Monroe directed that the Alabama town be named for him.
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