Houston, Texas, Dental School Options
Students in the Houston area who are interested in pursuing a career in the dental field have a few options, both in school and type of program. This article looks at three schools, all less than a half-hour from downtown, that cover many aspects of dental studies at all levels. It also includes a table that allows prospective students to easily compare the schools in several important areas, such as cost and size.
- Just six miles from downtown, Houston Community College is a 2-year school with several campuses in the area. Its Health Science Center for Excellence offers certificate and associate's degree programs to aspiring dental assistants and hygienists.
- Lone Star College System also offers certificate and associate's degree programs for dental assistants and hygienists at its nearby Kingwood Campus, about 23 miles from Houston's center.
- Students looking for additional career training or degree options might want to consider the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, approximately six miles from downtown. It features certificate and bachelor's degree programs in dental hygiene as well as graduate degrees and certificates in dentistry.
Comparison of Schools
The following table will help aspiring dental studies students compare these three schools. It offers a side-by-side look at some of the many aspects students should consider.
|Houston Community College||Lone Star College System||University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston|
|School Type*||2-year, public||2-year, public||4-year, public|
|Total Enrollment (2014)*||58,276||69,395||4,556|
|Campus Setting*||Large city||Small city||Large city|
|Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*||$1,632 in-district; $3,360 in-state; $3,756 out-of-state||$1,504 in-district, $3,184 in-state, $3,544 out-of-state|| $8,046 in-state; $30,243 out-of-state (undergraduate)
$7,716 in-state; $26,920 out-of-state (graduate)
|% of Undergraduate Students Receiving Any Aid (2013-2014)*||70%||62%||61% (grants or scholarships); 81% (federal student loans)|
|Retention Rate (2013-2014)*||56% for full-time students; 42% for part-time students||65% for full-time students; 51% for part-time students||N/A|
|Undergraduate Graduation Rate (students began their studies in 2011)*||12%||10%||N/A|
Sources: *NCES College Navigator
Houston Community College
In addition to dental assisting and dental hygiene programs, the Health Science Center of Excellence offers training to aspiring medical assistants, nurses, physical therapist assistants and surgical technologists, to name a few.
Dental Assisting Certificate of Completion
This certificate takes about a year to complete and includes lectures, labs and clinical experiences that train students to identify bloodborne pathogens and control infections. They also learn how to maintain patient records, perform clerical duties and assist dentists during procedures.
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
The 2-year associate's degree program in dental hygiene includes prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry and sociology. Students also complete introductory coursework in preventative dental hygiene, radiology, periodontology and dental nutrition. Advanced topics are covered in the second year of the program and include pharmacology, oral pathology and community dentistry. This coursework is accompanied by clinical experiences.
Lone Star College System
As the largest schools in the Houston area, the Lone Star College System offers health science degrees at several locations. Students interested in the dental hygiene or dental assisting programs can pursue training at the Kingwood Campus. Programs in such areas as medical assisting, health information technology and surgical technology are available at one of its other six campuses.
Dental Assistant Certificate
Students in this program learn how to sterilize equipment, schedule appointments, take x-rays and educate patients about taking care of their teeth. Curriculum includes clinical experiences and a review course focusing on the dental assistant registration exam, which is administered by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. This is a non-credit program consisting of 332 clock hours.
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
To be admitted into this 2-year program, students must pass a background check and submit proof of immunizations. Prerequisite courses in anatomy and physiology, sociology, composition and chemistry are also required. Once admitted, students enroll in coursework covering such topics as orofacial anatomy, dental radiology, medical microbiology, oral pathology and community dentistry. Clinical experiences are also required.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degree programs through its School of Dentistry. Roughly 100 pre-doctoral students are admitted to the School of Dentistry each year. The school houses a number of facilities, including clinical treatment centers, laboratories and a Clinical Simulation and Learning Center.
Dental Hygiene Certificate
Students in the dental hygiene certificate program must first complete 34 credit hours of prerequisite coursework in subjects like nutrition, anatomy, microbiology and chemistry. They then learn how to collect and analyze patient data, formulate diagnoses, manage patients' pain and respond appropriately to dental emergencies. In addition to taking courses in such areas as dental radiology and pathology, students complete clinical experiences and seminars.
Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene
Dental hygiene coursework for the bachelor's degree program is similar to that of the certificate. However, students must complete 64 credit hours of prerequisite coursework before beginning to study dental hygiene. This general education curriculum is also offered as a degree completion program for certificate program graduates.
Doctor of Dental Surgery
To be admitted into the Doctor of Dental Surgery program, students must have completed 90 undergraduate credit hours of coursework at an accredited school. In the first year of the program, aspiring dentists examine introductory topics in oral biology, neuroscience, anesthesia, dental anatomy, oral disease prevention and dental ethics. They also prepare for clinical rotations in various dental specialty areas, such as pediatric dentistry, oral surgery and endodontics. More advanced topics of study include restorative materials, removable prosthodontics, hard and soft tissue differential diagnoses, dental public health and orthodontics.
Master of Science Advanced Education Programs
In these combined postgraduate degree and certificate programs, students complete science and research methodology courses as well as clinical experiences designed to prepare them for board specialty examinations. Available specialties include periodontics, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics and prosthodontics. Residency programs leading to certificates in general practice, advanced education in general dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery are available as well.