Explore Inside Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene Program

Video and story by Gloria Nguyen
Edited by Pete Ramirez

Dental hygiene is a growing field and in high demand in Austin.

With the goal of producing competent entry-level dental hygiene professionals to meet the market requirements, Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene program strives to provide future dental hygienists with the best education and training program in town.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is proud to be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation – the national programmatic accrediting agency for dental and dental-related education programs at the post-secondary level.

Students accepted into this program work with faculty who hold an average of 26 years of experience working in the field.

One of the main reasons for the recent growth of dental hygiene is the high pay grade. According to Indeed, the average base salary for dental hygienists in Austin is $39.22 per hour. 

“A lot of our students can be independent financially just by working part-time,” Professor Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, said. 

“The pay is very compatible with engineers, but it takes only two years for our students to be able to work,” Sohrabi said.

Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, poses in front of the administration desk.

Sohrabi also mentioned that usually her students start looking for jobs before they graduate. By the time they graduate, they already have job offers lined up. One of the biggest hurdles for the students in the process is obtaining their license. 

The license pass rate for students in the program so far is 100%.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is highly selective. “There are about 80-100 applicants per year, but we only take 18,” Sohrabi said. “Lots of students couldn’t get in on their first try.”

To be qualified for admission, applicants are required to get a minimum Test of Essential Academic Skills score of 58.7 on both the Reading and English sections of the exam. 

“On a scale of ten, I’ll give the hard level of that exam a six,” Christina Marie Kumar, a first-year student in ACC’s Dental Hygiene program, said. 

First-year student Christina Marie Kumar prepares to see her patients.

Kumar was accepted into this program on her first attempt. Sharing about her experience, she underlines the importance of studying actively. 

“It’s important to fully understand the subject matter of the exam and your testing style,” Kumar said. “Then, I’ll do a self-assessment. How confident do I feel with the Reading and English sections?”

Because the program is compressed into two years instead of four, the course schedule is tight. 

“This semester in particular, my schedule is Monday through Thursday,” Kumar said. “Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are clinic days. Those are days I’ll be seeing patients in the clinic. And the rest are lecture days.”

“When you hear about dental hygienists, you automatically think of teeth, but we’re so much more than that,” Kumar said. “There are so many people who come to the dentist when they’re in pain. I get to see these people and assess things like blood pressure and cancer screening.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program also offers good-quality dental services to patients. “When patients come here, they get a head and neck cancer screening, extraoral and intraoral screening, dental X-ray and a very thorough teeth cleaning,” Sohrabi said.

Sohrabi explained that after coming through the screening process, patients will be assigned to students based on their scale level.

Patients can get complete cleaning with everything included for as low as $20. More deep and complex cleaning, if needed, is $40. 

Patients are required to have a flexible schedule. They should have time in their schedule for three to five appointments that are three hours in length.

“We need time to do faculty checks, paper work, and they’re still students,” Sohrabi said. “But consider the fee, it’s worth spending time.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is currently accepting patients. The department is located at Eastview Campus, 3101 Webberville Road, building 8000. Call (512) 223 – 5710 to find out more and schedule your first appointment. 

Foundation for the Future: ACC Alumni’s Journey to Becoming a Dentist

With humble beginnings at Austin Community College in 2012, alumni Eugenia Osbon expects to graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry with a doctorate within the next year – a leap of faith she took by leaving her hometown in Belarus.

Video and story by Angelica Ruzanova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Growing up in the affluent and historic town of Vitebsk, Belarus, which produced several of the world’s greatest painters such as Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich, Eugenia Osbon’s love for art prospered at an early age. 

But it wasn’t until Osbon’s time at Austin Community College that she discovered her true artistic outlet to be dentistry. 

In ACC’s dental hygiene program, Osbon found a love of studying health care which marked the beginning of a life-changing journey toward becoming a dentist. 

“When I just came to the United States, I was wondering if I could continue my education or start something new,” Osbon said. “There weren’t many options for me as a recent immigrant [while] not working or making any money so ACC was actually a great option for me…”

At the start of her time at ACC, Osbon had an idea she might enjoy going into the medical field but was unsure what kind of medicine she wanted to pursue.

“The class which actually turned me towards the medical field and especially dentistry was microbiology for health professions that I took at the Cedar Park campus,” Osbon said. “It was amazing and really, really inspiring.” 

Osbon could tell she was making the right choice and decided to push herself to aim for a more challenging goal.

“…I decided that I might as well just go and transfer to a university and get my doctorate instead of settling on two years of dental hygiene,” Osbon said.

Once her mind was set on this goal, Osbon became dedicated to her path, despite facing obstacles such as learning to speak English and navigating through limited financial means. 

“The language barrier made things very hard for me in the beginning because I decided to go into the medical field and my first class I took at ACC was anatomy,” Osbon said. “Not only was it hard for me to speak English, be present in lectures and try to write notes, but at the same time there were words that I’ve never heard in my life and it was definitely challenging.”

Osbon’s struggles became learning experiences that have made her a better dental student. She recalled retaking the class again in order to maintain a high GPA and found the experience to be rewarding. 

In addition, Osbon joined student organizations which made her feel welcomed and connected to a supportive new community. 

“I joined the National Honor Society pretty much right away – Phi Beta Kappa, and it was a great thing for me because I realized that without any financial help or big means I could actually help others because I was in a community that was helping others,” Osbon said.“It was one of the first things I did to give back to the people I met here who were really nice and welcoming.”

Osbon said that soon she’ll be able to do the same as a dentist caring for her future patients. 

After Osbon graduated from ACC with an associate’s degree in health science, she transferred to Texas State University where she started her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and chemistry.

Once Osbon received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, she was soon after accepted into the highly competitive University of Texas at San Antonio’s school of dentistry.

Eugenia Osbon stands infront of UTSA's dentistry lab.
“A new foundation for oral healthcare and research,” reads an inscription on one of the offices the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry. Eugenia Osbon poses in front of it with a folder from the school.

Nearly a decade since her start at ACC, Osbon observed that her academic story was not so different from another classmate in her dental school. 

“I met another friend who went to ACC who graduated last year at the age of 40,” Osbon said. “We both could have completed our demo degrees faster or slower, but ACC gives you the opportunity, tools, and community to do so at your own pace.”

As Osbon nears the end of her academic career, she is appreciative of her time at ACC where her dream of becoming a dentist first began. 

“ACC is a great beginning place,” Osborn said. “No matter your age, financial level, background, it helps you to achieve your goals.” 

“[ACC] prepared me really well for Texas State level courses and some of my courses at ACC were just as hard,” Osbon said. “My professors were just as knowledgeable and very welcoming, which is why ACC has a big spot in my heart.”

Eugenia Osbon and her friend Saima Khan smile as they lay in the grass between dental classes.
Saima Khan (left) and Eugenia Osbon (right) take a break in between classes at dental still in their scrubs outside of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry.

Osbon will be graduating with a doctorate in dental surgery from UTSA in May of 2023. The initial open door that ACC offered to Osbon, has altered the course of her career, her life, and will benefit future patients of the soon-to-be Dr.Osbon.