How to Go About Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Alabama
Dental hygienists clean and polish teeth. Hygienists often make recommendations to dentists on the condition of a patient's teeth and gums. Alabama has specific guidelines for a person interested in becoming a dental hygienist.
How Can I Become a Dental Hygienist in Alabama?
Preparation for a dental hygienist career can begin in high school. Students interested in this profession should take courses in areas like biology and chemistry. They might also want to develop the skills essential for success in this field; dental hygienists will need good manual dexterity as well as interpersonal and communication skills.
In Alabama, you must complete an accredited postsecondary degree program. The American Dental Association's (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is the accrediting agency. An associate's degree and professional licensure are the minimum requirements for becoming a dental hygienist in Alabama.
Alabama Dental Hygienist Schools
Alabama is home to two schools offering CODA-accredited dental hygiene programs. Wallace State Community College in Hanceville is the only public school with such a program. Fortis Institute in Birmingham is a for-profit school that also meets CODA accreditation requirements.
Admission requirements to a dental hygienist associate's degree program include a high school diploma, GED or Alabama occupational diploma. Once admitted, students complete lecture courses and clinical experiences to learn about such topics as microbiology, physiology, periodontology, nutrition and radiography for dental x-rays. Students also study dental materials, dental hygiene nutrition, pharmacology, oral pathology and dental anatomy.
Successful completion of the degree requirements for an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene qualifies program graduates to sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, as well as Alabama's state-issued licensing exam.
After completing their training program and meeting work experience requirements, aspiring dental hygienists in Alabama must sit for the Alabama Dental Hygiene Board Examination. This is a state-administered licensing exam.
You should note that Alabama does not require graduates to take the ADA's National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. However, if an aspiring dental hygienist plans to work in another state, he or she must sit for this standardized test.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental hygienists working in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $44,400 in May 2015. Job opportunities in this field were expected to increase 19%, nationwide, over the 2014-2024 decade.