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Exploring the world of dentistry

Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC students demonstrate clinical techniques for participants in the Dental Explorers program. (Photo/Beth Dunham)

Forty-five high school and college students visited the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC for a crash course in the dental profession July 23-Aug. 3.

The event marked the 10th year of the school’s Dental Explorers program, which gives young students the opportunity to learn more about dental school and the skills needed for a career in dentistry.

Program participants took part in extensive lab work, including the opportunity to sculpt structures out of wax and build a tooth with composite resin, as well as informative sessions on oral anatomy, dental specialties, how to apply to dental school and more. They also interacted with dozens of Ostrow School students and faculty members who provided the budding dentists with valuable insight.

Cody Jonathan Ramirez, a junior at Covina High School who said he’s wanted to be a dentist since eighth grade, described the program as “awesome,” especially the experiences and the time spent with Ostrow School students. USC is his first choice for college and eventually dental school, he added.

“The students are really helpful and funny; they’ve taught us everything we need to know,” he said. “It was really eye-opening to see how hard it is to get into dental school and how hard the students work when they’re here.”

Jesica Gonzalez, a junior in biology at California State University,  Bakersfield, said she’s thought about going into dentistry for years, especially since her parents, who grew up in Mexico, didn’t receive dental care until age 15.

“Your teeth have a lot to do with overall health,” she said. “The first thing someone sees when they meet you is your smile.”

Gonzalez said only a few of her cousins are going to college, and she is the first in her family to aim for a health care career. She plans to apply to dental school at USC as she finishes her undergraduate work and credited the program for solidifying her choice to pursue dentistry.

“I’ve liked every part of the program,” she said. “We’ve been learning so much and interacting with different people. The doctors and the students teach you so much and explain why they do what they do.”

During its 10 years in existence, the program has helped many young students focus their professional ambitions, said Ryan Pineda, the Ostrow School admissions coordinator and counselor for the doctor of dental surgery program.

“The Dental Explorers program has truly inspired several future professionals to pursue a career in dentistry,” he said. “In fact, since the program began, many former Explorers have entered or completed dental school either at USC or another institution.”

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