From mission trips to family experiences, the reasons three students entered the Dental Hygiene Program at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry are as unique as they are.
The role of a dental hygienist is critical to not only a person’s oral health, but also their overall health.
Stefany Vasquez, a second-year dental hygiene student, was raised in Venezuela and always enjoyed science and health classes. Participating in two mission trips abroad to provide dental care to underserved communities fueled her desire to become a dental hygienist.
“I learned so much about the dental field, the importance of working as part of a team to make a positive difference, and how vital it is to provide patients with oral hygiene education,” said Vasquez, a recipient of a Hispanic Dental Association Foundation scholarship.
Inspired by her dad who had not felt comfortable smiling in more than 20 years because of the condition of his teeth, Casandra Castillo became interested in oral care to educate others, including her parents, about the importance of oral hygiene. She saw her dad’s excitement over receiving implants.
“That was the moment I knew I was exactly where I needed to be helping patients become comfortable with their own smiles,” said Castillo, a second-year dental hygiene student. “I knew that if I could handle that experience with my dad, I could help anyone with their dental journey.”
In the case of Laura Huynh, a second-year dental hygiene student, it was early exposure to the dental field that sparked her interest. After shadowing her brother, who was a dental assistant, Huynh was intrigued by how the hygienist took the time and care to educate her patients.
“I saw how she developed truly meaningful relationships with her patients. The relationships she had with her patients were unlike any experience I had with hygienists in the past, and she inspired me to become the hygienist she was and is,” Huynh said.
The desire to learn seems to also lead to a desire to teach. Huynh plans to come back to teach dental hygiene students. “Teaching has always been a passion of mine,” Huynh said. “I love educating my own patients in clinic and have experienced so much joy and fulfillment sharing knowledge and helping others succeed.”
Castillo also hopes to make an impact in the community, one patient at a time. “I am excited to start my career as a dental hygienist soon,” Castillo said. “I hope to inspire others and help them overcome their dental fears.”
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