Andrea Cardenas; Marisol Arias

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Classes for the fall semester began Monday, Aug. 29, at Texas State Technical College, and a brand-new cohort of 30 students were welcomed by Dental Hygiene program instructors at TSTC’s Harlingen campus.

As with previous cohorts, first-semester students must meet an expectation and be trained to become dental hygiene professionals.

Raquel Rico, a Dental Hygiene instructor, said a lot is expected of the students as they will become patient providers.

“As program instructors, we want the students to be the best clinicians,” Rico said. “That’s why the curriculum is very challenging. There is much information to learn in one semester so that students can be ready to provide patient treatment the following semester. There are always high expectations of each new cohort.”

During the first week, students were made aware of three important components that are vital to the Dental Hygiene program: the philosophy and rationale in striving for excellence in teaching and learning, quality patient care, and professionalism.

Students will learn about vital signs and the importance of having a complete patient assessment. They will learn how oral health is related to systemic health, and how improving one area will improve a patient’s overall health. The importance of patient communication is also addressed.

Marcus Capetillo, of Raymondville, developed an interest in the program when he saw the career success of his brother, who is an alumnus of the same program.

“There is so much to learn about oral hygiene that I find interesting,” he said. “I enjoy helping people. If I can help improve others’ oral health, that would be great.”

Capetillo is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program.

He added that he is looking forward to learning about various techniques from the program instructors.

“There are many types of instruments and machines used in this career,” he said. “I want to learn as much as I can to enhance my knowledge.”

Andrea Cardenas, another first-semester Dental Hygiene student, became interested in the program through a passion for helping people feel better about themselves.

“Many people feel self-conscious about their teeth, and I want to help bring a smile through patient care,” Cardenas said.

The first-semester student said her initial focus was to pursue a career as a dentist.

“I heard about the Dental Hygiene program at TSTC, and I felt it was perfect for me,” she said. “I enjoy that you will work by yourself in this profession. And you get to help remove a patient’s calculus and tartar. I find that satisfying because I get to contribute to improving their oral hygiene.”

Rico said program graduates visit when they have an opportunity to share their insight with a new cohort.

“The most valuable advice is for students to enjoy their profession,” she said. “This profession is rewarding because you have the opportunity to provide optimum overall oral and systemic health to the patients. Dental hygienists are not only tooth cleaners, they are patient providers.”

According to, the need for dental hygienists in Texas was expected to grow 35% from 2018 to 2028. TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene at the Harlingen campus.

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