Dental assistants shine

Dental assisting majors Tatiana Gay (left) and Courtney McKay take notes during Professor Marjorie Hoy’s lecture. 

Dental assisting students know two things: Their hands will always be in someone’s mouth, and they will always be in demand.

“You can find a job anywhere in the world; everyone has teeth,” said Marjorie Hoy, professor of dental assisting.

Through the American Dental Association, the week of March 3-9 is dedicated to recognizing dental assisting professionals for their work behind the scenes.

“They learn all aspects of dentistry,” Hoy said of students in the program, “everything from restorative dentistry, orthodontics, endodontic and extractions. Pretty much everything a dentist will do, they know how to do as well.”

Hoy said the program is intense.

“We study a different type of dental specialty every week, and the program builds in complexity,” Hoy said. “We spend more time with students than they do with their family. They come at 8 o’clock in the morning and most of the time they don’t leave until 4 or 5 in the afternoon.”

An internship is attached to this degree plan.

“When they are not on site here, they are placed in dental offices throughout the community,” Hoy said. “It starts out at eight hours a week in the spring, and then it goes to 21 hours a week.”

Hoy said the job opportunities for dental assisting are easy to come by.

“The average person will start off with $17,000-20,000,” Hoy said. “It depends on the region as well, but sometimes students might work for specialists or in the general work of dentistry.”

Student Ashley Gutierrez said she feels people neglect their own oral health care.

“I think it’s important for people to know what’s going on in their own mouth,” Gutierrez said. “Our health is very important and our goal is to help patients understand how imperative oral health is.”

Brittany Longoria, another dental assisting major, said she wanted to become a dental assistant when she got braces in middle school.

“Ever since eighth grade, it became a passion of mine,” Longoria said. “The Dental Assisting Recognition Week means a lot to me because we get to be appreciated for all the hard work we do with our dentists and patients.”

Hoy wants her students to get what they came for.

“It’s a very labor-intensive program. Once you get into the sixth week of instruction, it’s like learning a foreign language,” Hoy said. “Whatever their goal is, whether to learn the skill set and get a job or get their associate degree, I want them to finish what they started.”

For more information on the dental assisting programs, contact Hoy at 361-698-2849 or

Courtney McKay, dental assisting major, takes down notes about general dentistry during class.

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