Dental Hygiene Program Thriving in New Home
All Benefit from Relocation of Esteemed Program
By Catherine Duncan
Four years ago the UT Health Science Center San Antonio’s Dental Hygiene Program joined the School of Dentistry—leaving its home in the School of Health Professions.
This relocation has proven beneficial for dental hygiene students, dental students, faculty members and especially patients at UT Dentistry San Antonio, the clinical practice of the School of Dentistry.
Jo Ann Diaz Jordan, M.A., RDH, director of the Dental Hygiene Program, said when the program was formerly housed in the dental school building, it had its own separate clinic.
“Since we moved into the Center for Oral Health Care & Research, we are part of the general practice group. This is like real life. If we are doing a dental cleaning and are concerned about something in the patient’s mouth, we can bring in a dentist or a dental student for a diagnosis,” she said.
The Dental Hygiene Program is one of only three in the state affiliated with a dental school.
“We are very fortunate that ours is fully integrated into one of the country’s top dental schools. This allows our students to learn to communicate and work well with dental students and dentists. In Texas, dental hygienists must work under dentists. This means that when our students graduate, they will be comfortable working with dentists,” she said.
This integrated program also allows dental students to gain understanding of and respect for dental hygienists. “Our dental students see how comprehensive the dental hygienists’ education is and how hard they work to help patients. They know they don’t just clean the patient’s teeth; they are concerned with the overall health of patients,” Jordan added.
The program is part of the Department of Periodontics, which is the dental specialty concerned with gum, bone and connective tissues that surround and support teeth.
“Periodontics is the perfect place for us. Routine cleanings help maintain healthy gums and good bone support,” she said. “Periodontists often see patients whose teeth move like piano keys. They have to decide how to help them. We try to prevent the teeth from becoming loose and susceptible to disease.”
The Health Science Center’s Dental Hygiene Program is one of four in Texas to offer bachelor’s degrees. With 30 students admitted each fall, the program is very competitive. A 90-percent pass rate for the first time they take the licensing exams means graduates are in high demand by dentists who want the best-educated hygienists, she explained.
The program offers two Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degrees: an entry-level program for those who have completed their first two years of undergraduate studies as well as a completion program for licensed dental hygienists seeking a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s completion program and the Master of Dental Science in Dental Hygiene are both online programs.
Jordan said a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene opens up many opportunities for graduates, including being a clinician in private practice, an educator, a public health worker or a researcher.
With the bachelor’s degree, a dental hygienist in the San Antonio area earns approximately $65,000 a year. Those who move to Austin usually make $75,000 to $80,000. Graduates who move to certain underserved areas in Texas earn around $50,000 but can benefit from a student loan repayment program, Jordan said.
Yanet Quade, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene in May, had a job lined up before she even graduated—although she had already taken and passed her licensing exams. She is working in the dental office of Daniel T. Ramos, D.D.S., Class of 1981, and Sarah N. Percy, D.D.S., who completed her residency in advanced general dentistry at the School of Dentistry.
“I applied to several schools, but I was thrilled to be accepted at the Health Science Center. Its reputation was great, and it had a high pass rate for boards. While I was accepted here and at another dental hygiene school, I am so happy that I could come here and earn a bachelor’s degree,” she said.
Quade said she was fortunate to be in the first class to be fully integrated into the dental school. “We were the students involved in the transition of the program and moving to the Center for Oral Health Care & Research. It went really smoothly, “she said.
Quade came to the Health Science Center after serving for 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic. “Before entering the military, I was a dental assistant and wanted to try something different in the Army. After leaving the service, I decided I really enjoyed the dental field and decided to earn my degree,” she added.