Dentistry is a growing field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, the dentistry profession is projected to grow by 16 percent through 2018. Career paths include dentist in private practice, dental hygienist, dental assistant and laboratory technician. New Mexico does not have a school that offers a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) degree, which is required to be a dentist. Four of its schools, however, have dental degree and certificate programs that train future dental assistants and dental hygienists.
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque has the only U.S. dental hygiene division inside a medical school. Housed within the university’s Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, the program offers both a bachelor of science degree and master of science degree in dental hygiene. The bachelor’s degree program consists of three semesters of general education courses followed by a five-semester curriculum of dental hygienist courses. Courses students can expect include dental anatomy, dental radiology, periodontology, pharmacology, special patient care and principles of practice. A bachelor’s degree completion program in dental hygiene is offered to individuals who have a certificate or associate’s degree in dental hygiene accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. That program requires a student to complete a minimum of 128 semester hours, including 30 semester hours at the University of New Mexico. Education, management, research, public health and advanced clinical training are taught through this program.
Dona Ana Community College
Located adjacent to the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces, Dona Ana Community College offers a dental assistant certificate of completion and an associate in applied science degree in dental hygiene.
The dental assistant program is a limited-entry, special-application program. Factors such as completion of an English course and computer literacy course are required for consideration of acceptance into the program. Once accepted, students are required to take courses such as biodental science, dental assisting, dental radiology, dental office management and preventive dentistry.
The school’s associate in applied science degree in dental hygiene is also a limited-entry program and requires 30 credits of general education and related classes followed by 69 credits of core and technical courses. Periodontology, clinical dental hygiene, dental pharmacology, dental public health and principles of practice are among the courses required for graduation.
San Juan College
San Juan College, in Farmington, offers a two-year dental hygiene program that leads to an associate of applied science degree. More than 600 hours of clinical experience working with patients are included at the school’s Health and Human Performance Center nine-operatory clinic. Each operatory is equipped with dental chairs, cavitron units and intra-oral digital radiology capability; each also offers a number of new technologies. Program courses include tooth morphology, dental radiography, clinical dental hygiene, dental bio material, pharmacology, local anesthesia and pain control, dental public health and principles of practice. The dental hygiene program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
Santa Fe Community College
Santa Fe Community College, which is in Santa Fe, offers a one-year certificate program in dental assisting and a two-year associate of applied science degree in dental health. The dental assisting program has three hours of English as a prerequisite followed by 34 hours of core requirements. Required courses include dental assisting, dental radiography, dental sciences, community dental health and dental practicum. Additional courses are recommended but not required.
The associate of applied science degree in dental health includes all of the coursework required for the certificate in dental assisting and a number of communication, science and elective classes such as biology, psychology, and anatomy and physiology. The school’s objective is to enhance an individual’s employment opportunities in dental office management or in teaching dental assisting. A minimum of 66 hours of coursework, including general education courses, core courses and approved electives, are required for program completion.