Marisol Arias, Beyonce Cortez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – October is National Dental Hygiene Month, a reminder that dental hygienists are advocates and influencers who can make an impact in their patients’ lives by helping to improve their oral health.

Students in the Dental Hygiene program at Texas State Technical College’s Harlingen campus are being educated on the proper techniques to assess dental care through hands-on training.

Raquel Rico, TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program director, said she motivates each cohort by sharing a message on behalf of a former mentor.

“That is to never give up, and practice,” Rico said. “Practice makes perfect. It takes time to grasp the concept of the new skill. If this is the career a student wants, that passion will come from within. They must take the time to study and practice. Their path to a successful future is about the dedication they apply.”

TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program teaches students how to work with patients, how to clean and polish teeth, and how to take X-rays. Students also are instructed about how to perform administrative duties, such as recording a patient’s dental history and updating charts.

Two of the students recently shared what inspired them to make a difference with patients in their communities.

Jaime Davila, of Brownsville, is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program. He said there are several aspects of the profession that motivate him.

“The instructors have taught us that it’s not only about cleaning teeth,” he said. “It’s very important that we educate our patients about their oral health and also their systemic health. As a future hygienist, I want to improve that overall education in my community. That’s how the Associate of Applied Science degree is directly preparing me.”

Victoria De Leon, of Mission, is also studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program. She said educating others through improved knowledge is important.

“The community we live in isn’t educated on oral health as much as it should be,” De Leon said. “Growing up, I didn’t have much knowledge. Now I’m well-educated, thanks to the knowledge I have learned in the Dental Hygiene program at TSTC. The next step is to share that information with my family, friends and the community.”

De Leon said she wants to be a good role model for her children.

“It’s important to me to demonstrate to my daughters that a postsecondary education is important, as well as independence,” she said.

According to onetonline.org, the need for dental hygienists in Texas was expected to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030. Salaries in the state average $77,600 a year.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene at the Harlingen campus.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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