(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A person’s smile can truly be captivating. Restoring a patient’s oral health is an art and a science that brings joy to a dental hygienist.
Raquel Rico, a Texas State Technical College alumna and the TSTC Dental Hygiene program lead at the TSTC campus in Harlingen, is multifaceted in her TSTC Dental Hygiene leadership role. She not only builds rapport with the public and assists in their oral health, but also educates a growing dental hygienist student base and leads her skilled program instructors to success.
Rico, a former resident of Mexico, moved to the United States when she was 10 years old. She has resided in Combes for the past 28 years.
“At a young age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “As I grew older, I envisioned becoming a dentist.”
That early intuition would prove to be her calling.
Rico earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene at TSTC in May 2000. Then she continued her education and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2011. Two years later, she earned a master’s degree in Educational Technology from the same university.
Her career in the dental field has proven to be a success.
Rico gained experience as a part-time dental hygienist for six months with Harlingen Family Dentistry in 2000. In addition, she worked in the same part-time role for two years with Dr. Serapio De La Rosa in San Benito. She transitioned to being a full-time dental hygienist with Dr. Kurt Mackie Dentistry for three years, and later she made the switch to Dr. James Siravo’s clinic in the same position for 2 1/2 years.
“My duties at these establishments consisted of providing patient treatment,” she said. “As a self-provider, you offer preventative services such as X-rays, cleaning, deep scaling, placing sealants, applying sealants, providing patient education, and other duties.”
Her dream of becoming a dental educator became a reality in the fall of 2006. A job opportunity arose to become a part-time clinical instructor at the TSTC campus in Harlingen. She accepted the offer and continued to work in the dental field. After proving her abilities, she became a full-time instructor in 2007. That was followed with her acceptance of TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program lead role five years later.
Rico remarked that it is gratifying to see her students learn during her 15-year teaching career.
“I really enjoy teaching,” she said. “I knew transitioning into a leadership role with TSTC would help me learn more.”
She wants her students to overcome any obstacles that they might encounter and complete the program.
“It is difficult when I have to conduct a private, face-to-face discussion with a student who is not meeting the program requirements,” she said. “It has to be done, but I definitely want that individual to succeed.”
Her goal for the next five years is to continue being an effective program lead. Her intent is to improve enrollment, graduate her students, and continue to learn every day.
Rico discussed the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant.
“A dental hygienist provides treatment to a patient under the supervision of a dentist,” she said. “The hygienist works directly with patients and builds rapport. A dental assistant works side by side with the dentist. That is the difference.”
The Dental Hygiene clinic at TSTC is open to the community for the spring 2022 semester. The cost is $20 for a regular cleaning and $40 for a deep scaling. The cost for an X-ray will vary.
The hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., except for holidays. Contact 956-364-4696 to schedule an appointment.
According to onetonline.org, the need for dental hygienists in Texas is expected to grow 35% by 2028.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene at the Harlingen campus.
To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.