How to Go About Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Alabama

Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who clean and polish teeth, provide educational and preventive services, and 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.

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How Can I Become a Dental Hygienist in Alabama?

Here is an overview of the steps you need to take to become a dental hygienist in Alabama:

  1. Earn an associate or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene from an accredited program, OR complete the Alabama Dental Hygiene Program (ADHP)
  2. Pass the Alabama Dental Hygiene Board Examination
  3. Apply for licensure as a dental hygienist with the state
  4. Renew your license every year by completing continuing education hours

An associate degree and professional licensure are the minimum requirements for becoming a dental hygienist in Alabama, but preparation for this career can begin in high school. Students interested in this profession should take courses in areas like biology and chemistry. They may 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.

Accredited Dental Hygienist Programs in Alabama

In Alabama, students must take one of two pathways to become a dental hygienist. If you are already working as a dental assistant in the state, you may qualify to enroll in the Alabama Dental Hygiene Program (ADHP). This program includes a pre-entrance application and exam, $700 fee, and training sessions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The other pathway requires completion of a postsecondary degree program accredited by The American Dental Association's (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Two schools in Alabama offer 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.

Program Requirements

Admission requirements for a dental hygienist associate 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.

Licensing Exams

Successful completion of the degree requirements for an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene qualifies program graduates to sit for the Alabama Dental Hygiene Board exam. Alabama is the only state that does not require students to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam. However, if an aspiring dental hygienist plans to work in another state, he or she must sit for this standardized test.

Before taking the exam, students need to apply for licensure as a dental hygienist in Alabama, which involves an official application form, small fee, CPR certification, transcripts, and other documents.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2017 there were 3,390 dental hygienists in Alabama, where the unemployment rate is 3.8%. They earned a mean annual wage of $46,290, and an average wage of $22.25 per hour, which is almost $2 higher than the state average of $20.76.

The Alabama Department of Labor expects almost 200 new dental hygienist jobs to open every year until 2020, naming it one of 'Alabama's Hot 40 Demand Occupations.' Job opportunities in this field were expected to increase 20%, nationwide over the 2016-2026 decade, which is much faster than the national average.

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