A dental training program doesn't always have to lead to being a licensed dentist. In Texas, there are many colleges and universities that offer training for individuals seeking licensure as a dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant. Certificate programs - which could last 1 year - are primarily for prospective dental assistants, while 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degrees are granted in dental hygienist programs. The respective 2-year master's and 4-year doctoral degree programs are for those pursuing a leadership role in dental hygiene and a career as a dentist.
Admission standards vary greatly by program level, but many programs are competitive. For example, for entry into a certificate program in dental assisting, only a high school diploma is needed. To be considered for a bachelor's in dental hygiene program, letters of recommendation and scores from the Texas Success Initiative test or SAT/ACT exams are required. Doctoral candidates need to complete a dental admission test before applying and have a bachelor's degree.
All of the aforementioned dental programs include learning that combines classroom and laboratory work, but also requires a practicum. Programs train students for the respective licensing or registration exams.
Austin Community College District
At the Austin campus of this community college, students can pursue an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Dental Hygiene. Students must complete prerequisite courses in microbiology, chemistry and English. The 5-semester program includes courses in orofacial anatomy, general and dental nutrition, as well as pharmacology for dental hygienists. Other required courses include periodontology, community dentistry and three clinical experiences. Completion of this degree program prepares students to take licensing exams.
Brenham-based Blinn College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene. This program includes a summer session in the first year, when students complete the second of four dental hygiene clinical experiences. Required courses include preventative dental hygiene, community dentistry and use of dental materials. Students also study dental radiology, pharmacology and oral pathology.
Collin County Community College
In McKinney, students at Collin County Community College can pursue an A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene. To enter the program, students must take a drug test, pass a background check and have valid CPR certification. Courses teach students about preventative dental care, general and oral pathology and a capstone course in oral medicine. The program requires three clinical sessions over the two years of the program.
El Paso Community College
This 2-year college in El Paso offers a Certificate of Completion in Dental Assisting, an A.A.S. in Dental Assisting and an A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene. The certificate program teaches students the skills necessary to work as a dental assistant, aiding registered dentists by performing routine tasks. Courses cover nutrition, orofacial anatomy and radiology. Students learn the basics of oral hygiene and procedures for working in a dental laboratory environment.
In the A.A.S. in Dental Assisting degree program, students in the first year complete the courses in the certificate program. During the second year, they take courses in computers and psychology. The second year also holds two classes in community health, centering on the socioeconomic, ethical and legal issues regarding healthcare of residents on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene degree program trains students in methods for cleaning teeth by removing plaque, stains and calculus. In addition to courses in biology and pharmacology, the program includes dental hygienist classes explaining the maintenance and use of materials such as picks, fluoride and sealants.
Houston Community College
The Houston-based community college offers a Certificate in Dental Assisting, an A.A.S. in Dental Assisting and an A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene. The certificate program introduces students to concepts in preventative dentistry, chairside assisting and includes two practicum sessions where students work under the direction of a licensed dentist to gain hands-on experience. Other required courses include study of dental radiology and dental office management.
In the A.A.S. in Dental Assisting degree program, students take many of the same courses as offered in the certificate program, and in addition, they complete a seminar focused on dental assistants and their duties, advanced dental science and the use of radiology in a dental clinic. During the second year, students work on elective courses and general education requirements.
The A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene degree program introduces students to orofacial anatomy, periodontology, and dental materials. Students complete clinical sessions where they gain experience as well as courses in pharmacology and oral pathology.
Lone Star College System
The Kingwood Campus of the Lone Star College System offers a Dental Assistant Certificate and an A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene. The certificate requires 332 contact hours for students in two lectures that cover topics in dental hygiene, as well as a clinical rotation and an exam review to prepare for the Registered Dental Assistant exam.
In the A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene degree program, students learn about nutrition's effect on teeth health, facial and dental anatomy, and the use of radiology in dentistry. Students complete four clinical sessions over the 2-year period. Students must complete prerequisite courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, communication and sociology. They must also complete a background check and the Health Science Reasoning Test.
San Antonio College
This 2-year public college in San Antonio offers a Certificate in Dental Assisting as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting. In the 30-credit-hour level I certificate program, students learn about preventative dentistry techniques, complete two field internships or practicum sessions and learn about dental radiology. Courses also included in the program include emergency management, office management and procedures for use in a dental laboratory.
In the A.A.S. in Dental Assisting degree program, students learn about the uses of radiology in dentistry, assisting at a dental chair and two dental assisting field experiences or practicum sessions. Other related courses include first aid and a seminar for dental assistant, where students learn about problem-solving through case studies. Students can complete the A.A.S. in five semesters, including general education courses.
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Located in Bryan, the Texas A&M Health Science Center offers multiple degree programs designed to train individuals for careers in the field of dentistry. The school offers a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, a Master of Science in Education for Health Care Professionals and the Doctor of Dental Surgery.
The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree program focuses on general education requirements during the first two years of study. Major-specific courses begin in the third year and introduce students to dental anatomy, the role and responsibilities of dentists and oral radiography. Other required courses focus on working in medical emergency situations, professional ethics and dentistry issues for older adults. Students complete four clinical rotations in dental offices and a field experience in public and community health.
The Master of Science in Education for Health Care Professionals requires a minimum of 37 semester hours or two years, including two summer semesters. This degree program has two tracks, including an administrative option that prepares students for working in institutions like nursing homes and hospitals where their focus is on research. In this track, the thesis is optional. The educational track requires that students complete a thesis and prepares the student to work in an educational setting. It is during the second year that students complete practicum sessions, educational research and a clinical case study. Other required courses include curriculum design and a seminar in caring for patients with special considerations.
To enter the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree program, students must complete an interview along with their submitted application. Students must take a range of courses in English, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics and statistics. The school suggests that students take the Dental Admission Test during their first year of study in the D.D.S. degree program.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Houston's campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center offers a Certificate in Dental Hygiene, a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, Master of Science in Dentistry and the Doctor of Dental Surgery. Students may also pursue certificates in advanced education.
In the Certificate in Dental Hygiene program, students learn to examine, clean, and polish teeth and gums. Students also learn to work with patients and maintain office records. The B.S. in Dental Hygiene includes the courses in the certificate program, as well as advanced classes in anatomy, pathology and pharmacology. Coursework emphasizes both dental care and the hygienist's role in promoting preventative care in patients.
Students in the D.D.S. program gain an extensive understanding of dental anatomy, biology and surgical procedures. The second and third years of the program feature numerous clinic courses in which students demonstrate skills in fields such as pediatric dentistry, radiology and orthodontics. Graduates from this Texas dental university can take the exam to become licensed dentists.
The M.S. in Dentistry degree program is geared toward currently licensed dentists who want to expand their knowledge and skills. Along with the master's, students in this program earn a certificate in one of three specialties: prosthodontics, periodontics or endodontics. Courses and length of the program will vary based on the chosen specialty, and students must submit a thesis to graduate.
Several postgraduate certificates are available in both specialty areas and general dentistry. Examples of specialties are orthodontics and pediatric dentistry, while general dentistry certificates include general practice residency and advanced education in general dentistry.
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
San Antonio's University of Texas Health Science Center campus offers a master's degree in biomedical research with a periodontics certificate and a Doctor of Dental Surgery. The school also offers a yearlong residency in dental public health for individuals who have a Master of Public Health.
The Doctor of Dental Surgery degree program is a 4-year program that includes study of dental anatomy and histology, administration of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide, and esthetic dentistry. Students participate in didactic learning and clinical rotations. In a student's junior year, rotations include topics in CPR, sealants, oral surgery and dentistry for kids. The senior year rotations include practice management, hospital dentistry and work at clinics in the San Antonio area.
In the Master of Science in Biomedical Research with Certificate in Periodontics, students learn about techniques in pain control and sedation, surgical anatomy and how to manage a periodontal practice. Students learn about the use of various dental implants, as well as multiple types of surgeries and the reasons to choose one over another.
The residency in dental public health combines didactic course work, student teaching of undergraduates, research and rotations through field and clinical experiences, and working with individuals living along the border with Mexico.
The Texas State Board of Dentistry regulates the practice of dentistry by granting licensure to qualified professionals. In order to obtain that license, individuals must qualify through an examination or with credentials. Regardless of the method of qualification, applicants must complete the Jurisprudence Assessment for Initial Licensure, an online exam.
The qualification by exam option offers five options to complete the general dentistry clinical examination, while those who choose the qualification by credential option must provide verification of employment for three of the previous five years and proof of 12 hours of continuing education over the previous year. Dental hygienists also have the options to obtain licensure through examination or credentials. According to the state board of dentistry, dental assistants do not need a license to practice, but those who perform radiographs must register with the state board of dentistry.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Dental Degree Programs and Certificates Offered||Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)|
|Austin Community College District||2-year, public; large city||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene|| $2,550 (in-district),
|Blinn College||2-year, public; distant town||Associate in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene|| $2,256 (in-district),
|Colin County Community College||2-year, public; midsize suburb||Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene|| $1,174 (in-district),
|El Paso Community College||2-year, public; large city|| Certificate of Completion in Dental Assisting,
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting,
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
| $2,386 (in-state),
|Houston Community College||2-year, public; large city|| Certificate in Dental Assisting,
A.A.S. in Dental Assisting,// A.A.S. in Dental Hygiene
| $1,632 (in-district),
|Lone Star College System||2-year, public; small city|| Dental Assistant Certificate,
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
| $1,504 (in-district),
|San Antonio College||2-year, public; large city|| Certificate in Dental Assisting,
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting
| $2,088 (in-district),
|Texas A&M Health Science Center||4-year, public; small city|| Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene,
Master of Science in Education for Health Care Professionals,
Doctor of Dental Surgery
| $8,656 (in-state graduate),
$18,183 (out-of-state graduate)*
|University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston||4-year, public; large city|| Certificate in Dental Hygiene,
Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene,
Doctor of Dental Surgery,
Master of Science in Dentistry,
Post-graduate certificates in dentistry
|$7,716 (in-state graduate),
$26,920 (out-of-state graduate)*
|University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio||4-year, public; large city|| Doctor of Dental Surgery,
Master's in Biomedical Research with Certificate in Periodontics,
Dental Public Health Residency
| $3,914 (resident graduate),
$11,966 (out-of-state graduate)*
Sources: *NCES College Navigator.