Raquel Rico, a TSTC Dental Hygiene instructor, said the clinic has been beneficial in the students’ growth since it first opened in 1996.
“It is necessary that students practice on ‘real patients’ and not solely on manikins,” Rico said. “The beauty of working with a patient allows our students to learn from real-life scenarios and develop their hands-on training. With a real patient, students get to examine on such things as calculus (known as dental tartar). The community’s contribution to the clinic by arriving for their appointments allows our clinic to continue operating.”
The on-site clinic has been open to the community for preventative dental services. Those include dental X-rays, dental cleanings, deep scaling, root planing, and placing sealants. In addition, individuals are educated about that service such as oral hygiene instructions, blood pressure screenings, diabetes screening, instructional counseling, and tobacco cessation counseling.
Nadia Garcia, a Dental Hygiene student, recently provided a service to a member of the community.
“(David) Izaguirre was scheduled for a deep cleaning,” Garcia said. “It was his second visit to the clinic. He was very pleased with my efforts and was compliant. I also educated him about various ways to maintain healthy teeth.”
Izaguirre, of Edinburg, said his experience with Garcia was knowledgeable.
“One of the biggest factors about oral health I learned was about calculus,” he said. “I was informed that my teeth had a layer of calculus. It is a hard-calcified deposit that forms and coats the teeth and gums. It acts as a barrier, but it is also bad. This is what makes a person’s mouth smell, even after they brush their teeth.”
Saul Cantu, another Dental Hygiene student, also provided deep cleaning to a member of the community.
“This was (Rafael) Ozul’s first visit to our dental hygiene clinic,” Cantu said. “I do my best to ensure every patient feels welcome and I develop that bond. Mr. Ozul was very happy with the work that I provided.”
Ozul, of McAllen, said he was appreciative that Cantu inquired about his concerns.
“My experiences at other dental offices have not been what I hoped for,” Ozul said. “Cantu worked on the service I requested and more. The manner in which these instructors train their students is exceptional.”
How has the Dental Hygiene clinic impacted the students’ hands-on training?
Now in her third semester, Garcia said it has been an incredible resource.
“My skills have improved such as in adaptation,” she said. “With ergonomics in dentistry, I have to position myself a certain way when placing the instruments inside a patient’s mouth. Then how effectively I am removing calculus. All that has helped with the hands-on training I have received in the dental hygiene clinic.”
Cantu, also in his third semester, said the clinic has been a positive experience in multiple facets.
“I have improved by repeating the skills, to the instructors correcting my adaptation, and improving my speed,” he said. “The opportunities I am given to work on real-life patients is a key attribute.
Rico added that individuals from across the Rio Grande Valley have said many positive things about TSTC’s students.
“Some of the compliments have been about their skills and their professionalism,” she said. “Students are interested in this field because they get to work directly with patients and build rapport. When they enter the workforce, their duty is to provide treatment to a patient under the supervision of a dentist.”
TSTC’s dental hygiene clinic is open to the community for the summer 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.