Application deadline approaching for dental assisting

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Ryan Bloom, dental laboratory technician sophomore, practices putting caps on the casted teeth of an articulator in Dental Laboratory Technology Oct. 22 in Room 315 of the nursing complex.

Ryan Bloom, dental laboratory technician sophomore, practices putting caps on the casted teeth of an articulator in Dental Laboratory Technology Oct. 22, 2014 in Room 315 of the nursing complex. File

The program will accept 24 applicants for fall 2017.

By Bismarck D. Andino

Dental assisting applications for fall will close Jan. 5. Students considering dental assisting as a major must meet the program’s entry-level competencies.



Dental assisting is accredited by the American Dental Association, and Commission on Dental Accreditation. This program consists of 33 credit hours for Level 1 certificate and 60 for an Associate of Applied Science degree in dental assisting.

Students who receive the associate degree also can earn an Enhanced Communication skills certificate, Professor Carmen Santiago, coordinator of dental assisting, said Oct. 13 in an interview.

The program is part of the allied heath department and also has two adjuncts. Santiago did not know how many students applied last year.

Santiago said dental assisting is one of the hot top jobs, a profession that is growing and important for dentists. According to Santiago, this profession is expected to grow by 25 percent between 2012 and 2022.

“The assistant is essential to the dentist in the office: they prepare the room, work front office, chairsides, and sterilizations,” she explained. “In lab work, they fabricate temporary crowns, sport guards and bleaching trays. So, the assistant has a wide variety of responsibilities compared to a dental hygienist, which is more stationary.”

To those considering this program, Santiago suggests visiting a local dentist to observe, so they can see if this is the career path they want.

The program will accept 24 students. The selection will be based on good standing in science courses, she said.

The decision also will be based on the Texas Success Initiative test, high school and college transcripts. For example, students chosen will score appropriately on the TSI test or have completed Math 0305, INRW 0420 or English 1301 and have a grade-point average of 2.75 or higher demonstrating good standing in science subjects.

Applicants must complete the online application at, no later than Jan. 5 to be considered.

“We will do our best to go through all the applicants. … We look to see who is focused in science because if we accept them and afterward they decided that this profession is not right for them, we just lost a seat for someone who might really have wanted to get in,” she said.

After applying, applicants will receive an automated email with instructions on documents to have ready when attending the first advising session.

Dental assisting sophomore Odalys Lopez said advisers make registration easy, and although program’s expectations are high, she enjoys what she does.

“It’s fun but hard to memorize everything, do homework and meet deadlines for every class,” Lopez said.

Lopez does observations at the University of Texas Health Science Center and volunteers at clinics every Friday. At the clinics, she learns about teeth cleaning and sectioning as well as sterilizing dental instruments, she said.

“I want to get a certificate in dental assisting to be able to work, then continue my education toward a bachelor’s degree to become a dental hygienist and, hopefully, work with kids,” she said.

Tinka Nguyen who graduated from this college in 2013 as a dental lab technician, recommends students be prepared to go to college the whole summer, to see the same people for two years and to have a lot of practice.

“Have all the documentation ready, and ahead of time, because the background check needs time to be completed,” Nguyen said. “Work hard, be patient, believe in yourself, and more important, don’t ever give up.”

Nguyen is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Texas At San Antonio and hopes to enter dental school and work one day at the UTHSC as a dentist.

For further assistance, contact the allied health department at 210-486-1502 or visit Room 208 in the nursing complex.


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