College hosts international dental competition

For approximately 30 aspiring dentists, Texas A&M College of Dentistry provided more than just dental clinics and chairs to demonstrate their skills. The campus served as a meeting ground to connect with others driven to pursue the profession.
July 10th, 2018
From left: HOSA-Future Health Professionals dental science competitors Joyce Wei, who placed third in the postsecondary/collegeiate division; Clarissa Guare; and Noah Jones.

From left: HOSA-Future Health Professionals dental science competitors Joyce Wei, who placed third in the postsecondary/collegeiate division; Clarissa Guare; and Noah Jones.

It doesn’t matter how many times you practice. Or how well you think you’ve planned everything you’ll say. When you walk in that clinic, it all gets thrown out the window.

Adjusting to a new environment was the hardest part for the high school and college students participating in the HOSA – Future Health Professionals dental science competition on June 29. The locale: none other than Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

It’s quite different from standing in your hotel room pretending that all of the items available in a dental clinic are at your fingertips, explains Clarissa Gaure from Robert Morgan Technical College in Miami.

“Not knowing the setup is the hardest thing,” says Noah Jones, a recent graduate of Woodford County High School, bound for the University of Kentucky in the fall. “Even though you know the skill, the entire environment around you is different than everything you’ve practiced in.”

On the surface, the patient education portion of the competition sounds simple enough: Use a typodont, toothbrush and floss to demonstrate proper flossing and brushing technique, and then dismiss the patient from the chair. Considering these students may not have had any previous hands-on exposure to the profession and are having every movement scrutinized by a panel of judges, the anxiety is understandable. The details — like applying hand sanitizer and putting on gloves — can be easy to skip. A few competitors realize it after the fact, wincing. But for the most part, as students trickle into the post-competition holding room, they join the buzz of excited banter; their relief palpable.

Approximately 30 competitors made it to this final round, which marks the culmination of months of preparation. After the state competition in the spring, at least 60 students advanced to the dental science nationals; they completed the written exam just the day before. Students describe the text used to prepare as “comprehensive,” and recall more than 900 pages of source material.

Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s mix of classrooms and clinics offered the perfect location for participants in this last phase of the competition. Most of the activity was concentrated in the seventh floor orthodontic clinic and several classrooms. For HOSA students, many of whom want to pursue dentistry or dental hygiene and some even representing schools in other countries, the event’s location served as a bonus.

“It’s been nice just to have an authentic feel to the event — to have it at a dental school with actual chairs. The environment is such an important aspect when competing,” says Jones. “Getting the opportunity to come to a dental college and talk to other people interested in the career path is extremely beneficial to find out if you truly have the passion for the profession. There are a lot of like-minded people you find here.”

It’s not the first time the college has hosted the competition, says Leeanna Bartlett, instructional assistant professor in public health sciences, who has coordinated Garland Independent School District’s HOSA student visits at the college for the past 12 years. The competition, which coincides with the organization’s International Leadership Conference, was last in Dallas in 2009.

The impact of the event on aspiring dental students has the potential to last long after awards are announced and accolades received.

“It gives us an opportunity to partner with a community organization for the purpose of empowering future health professionals to become successful leaders in their chosen health care field,” says Bartlett.

— Jennifer Fuentes