Getting a head start

Summer pre-dental programs helping prepare future dentists
July 12th, 2022

An SPEP student working in a lab

Summer camps are a staple of many childhoods: Scouts, science camp, sports, there’s a summer camp for almost any interest. Texas A&M College of Dentistry also offers summer programs to those interested in a future in dentistry. The Summer Pre-Dental Enrichment Programs, or SPEP, are available to students from 10th grade all the way to post-baccalaureate. In the programs, participants can get a head start on learning the basics of dentistry, learn more about preparing for college, and figuring out if oral healthcare really is a career they want to pursue.

A 12th grader at Red Oak High School, Amari, said that a lot of their time is spent preparing for the SAT, alongside learning some dentistry, because a student has to get through college first before applying to dental school, so that first step is pretty important. She says that she heard about SPEP from family members and her own dentist. While she was not expecting as much SAT prep work as there has been in her program, she says she has really enjoyed her time.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I was never scared of going to the dentist,” Amari says. “The environment there, how they treat their patients, I just loved it.”

Aside from tips to help students on the SATs, students also learn dental basics like teeth anatomy, waxing veneers, alignment impressions, and the like. Marcus, 12th grade student at Grand Prairie High School, has been part of SPEP for several years. He wants to become a surgeon, he says, dentistry is his backup plan. However, he adds that SPEP has been really challenging but educational. He recommended it to anyone interested in a medical career, regardless of what kind.

Robert, 12th grader from Floresville High School, has a family history with the program. His mother attended the summer program, he said, and is also a graduate of the school. She’s the reason he’s interested in a dental career, he says.

“It’s not just dental stuff, it’s getting us ready for the SAT,” he says. “I really like that. We still have to go to college first, then we can get into dental school. It’s still including dental stuff too, which is nice. I feel a lot better to take the SAT now.”

The collegiate programs lean more into dentistry than college prep, as participants are already in college or college-bound. Nia, who will be attending Louisiana Tech this fall as a freshman, says she got interested in dentistry because of her grandfather.

“My grandfather was a dentist, he’s retired now,” she says. “When I was younger he was working on my grandmother. He brought us up to the office and I was watching. He didn’t let me come in to see the actual procedure, but I was like ‘What are you doing?’ He was like, ‘I can’t show you, but maybe you could be a dentist one day and do the same thing.’”

An SPEP student working on a tooth model

Pablo, who will be attending Dallas College Mountain View Campus this fall, says SPEP is good for learning what you need to get into dental school: Waxing veneers and other basics of dentistry, including more hands-on projects. There are also group projects at the end of the program where students can study and present on a topic of their choice.

Franchesca, who will also be attending Dallas College in the fall, agreed that SPEP was very educational and was giving her a good head start into a future dental career.

“I actually had no idea about a dental career in the first place,” she says. “Honestly it really made me interested in dentistry. This is my first year here.”

— Caleb Vierkant