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. Students in Alabama interested in becoming a dental hygienist should consider Wallace State Community College in Hanceville.

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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.

Postsecondary education is also required. The American Dental Association's (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved training programs that award certificates, as well as associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees. An associate's degree and professional licensure are the minimum requirements for becoming a dental hygienist. Bachelor's or master's degrees are needed for research and teaching. A dental hygienist working in public or school environments will need to earn a bachelor's degree.

Program 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.

Licensing Exams

Alabama is the only state that 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. Candidates in Alabama must take a state-administered licensing exam after completing their training program and meeting work experience requirements.

Alabama Dental Hygienist Schools

Alabama is home to two schools offering dental hygiene programs accredited by the ADA's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Wallace State Community College in Hanceville is the only public school with such a program. Curriculum for its 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.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists working in Alabama earned an average annual wage of $46,530 in 2013. Job opportunities in this field were expected to increase 33%, nationwide, over the 2012-2022 decade.

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