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(WHNT) — Calhoun Community College cut the ribbon on a new 4,000 square foot dental hygiene lab last week.

The new lab makes Calhoun just the second higher education institution in Alabama to offer a dental hygiene plan, according to Bret McGill, the college’s Dean of Health Sciences.

“This ribbon cutting means so much more to us aside from starting a new program and opening a new lab for students to learn,” McGill said.

Program Director Sunnie McWhorter said the program has been a long time coming for Calhoun, but COVID-19 delayed the accreditation process.

“We made this happen in the middle of a pandemic, which speaks volumes of the hard work and dedication of Calhoun’s faculty,” McGill continued. “There were so many individuals instrumental in making this dream a reality and for that, all of us at Calhoun are extremely grateful.”

14 students became the program’s first cohorts and have begun practicing routine treatments under direct faculty supervision.

Upon advancing to the next level of training, students will be able to accept appointments for limited dental services for the public.

Calhoun’s program has been granted “initial accreditation” by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and is expected to receive full accreditation once the first group of students graduate in 2023.