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How to Become a Dentist in Alabama

If you are interested in working in healthcare but do not want to complete undergraduate studies, medical school and a residency, consider becoming a dentist. It takes four years to get a doctoral degree in dentistry, following the four years spent completing a bachelor’s degree. This is still less than the 10-plus years it takes to become a doctor or surgeon.

Careers in dentistry are growing nationally, especially in the state of Alabama. To become a licensed dentist in the state, you must complete a bachelor’s degree program, complete a doctorate program and internship, take and pass the National Dental Board exam and obtain a license through the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama.

Alabama Requirements for Dentists

If you are interested in becoming a dentist in Alabama, you must also seek licensure through the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama. Before becoming licensed, you must complete the educational requirements. These include graduating from high school and completing a four-year degree. You then need to be admitted to a doctoral program. Dental students can complete either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) program.

After you complete your doctorate, which will include a clinical internship, you will need to take the dental board exams. After you pass those, you must submit an application and fee to the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama, along with your jurisprudence test, to receive your license.

Dental Board Exams in Alabama

The exam must meet specific criteria to be accepted for dental licensure in Alabama. A full explanation of these criteria can be found here. The Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama accepts exam scores from the following agencies:

Alabama Dental Programs

While you can complete pre-dentistry programs at most universities in Alabama, only one school offers an accredited doctoral dental program. This school is the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and it has been named one of the top 25 dental schools in the world.

The following dental programs are available at UAB:

D.M.D. Program

This is the basic four-year dental school program offered at UAB. Since UAB believes that early clinical practice is vital for students, students engage in clinical activities as early as their first semester of dental school. The curriculum at UAB follows the comprehensive care model, meaning that students are responsible for the overall well-being of their patients. The D.M.D. degree program can also be taken as a dual degree, alongside a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree for those interested in owning their own business. Or, for those interested in teaching dentistry, it can be taken along with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program.

M.S. Degree in Dentistry

UAB also offers a Master of Science in Dentistry Degree program. This two-year program is for students who already have a D.M.D. or D.D.S. degree. The M.S. program provides students with training in dental academics and applied or basic scientific research. Students will complete coursework, seminars and clinical labs. You must be accepted into the UAB graduate program and complete a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours. Of these 30 hours, at least 18 must be graduate-level classes, and 12 must be research credits.

D.M.D./Ph.D. Program

This is a dual degree program for students who are interested in practicing dentistry but are interested in the academic side of dentistry as well. The program can be completed in a minimum of seven years. Students must apply to both the UAB school of dentistry and the UAB graduate school.

D.M.D./M.B.A. Program

This is the second dual degree program offered to dentistry students at UAB. This is for students who are pursuing a dental degree but are also interested in the business side of dentistry. This program is crucial for students interested in opening their own dental practice.

Pediatric Dentistry

This is a postdoctoral dentistry program. This program can be taken as a two-year program with students earning a certification in pediatric dentistry or three years with students earning a certificate in pediatric dentistry and an M.S. degree in dentistry. This program is designed for students focused on working with children and patients with developmental disabilities.

General Practice Residency (GPR) & Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD)

This program is also postdoctoral. This is a combination of two residency programs combined into one program. The GPR provides dental care for inpatients at UAB. The AEGD residency allows students to work with patients with special needs or complex diagnoses. Each residency is one year long, and students will receive certification for completing the program. Four GPR residents and two AEGD residents are accepted into the program each year.

Dental Career Opportunities in Alabama

Dentistry is a career in high demand across the U.S., so job opportunities are readily available to those who qualify. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that careers in dentistry are growing at a rate of 8%, and they make an average annual salary of $163,220.

Job growth and salary averages are higher than the national average in the state of Alabama. Projections Central predicts that job growth for dentists in the state will be almost 10 % between 2020 and 2030. There will be an average of 60 annual job openings in dentistry during that time. Also, the average yearly salary for Alabama dentists is $176,910.

With the steady increase in dentistry jobs, you should be able to find work anywhere in the state. However, there will be more job opportunities in the larger cities and metropolitan areas such as Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery. Dentists usually work in private practices, dental offices, hospitals, universities or public healthcare facilities. Many dentists are business owners, owning their own dental offices or becoming a partner in private practice.

Dentistry is a rewarding career in which you get to help people daily. Job opportunities are readily increasing in Alabama and nationwide. If you’re ready to put in the time and dedication to complete dental school, start working toward becoming a dentist in Alabama today.

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