USC University of Southern California

Exploring Oral Health

From Monday, July 18 to Friday, July 29, more than 40 high school, college and post-baccalaureate students experienced many facets of the dental profession during the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s Dental Explorers Program.

Students received a wide variety of hands-on dental knowledge, from the basics of oral anatomy and manual dexterity to instruction on how to construct an artificial tooth and repair a cavity. The program is now in its ninth year at the Ostrow School of Dentistry, and a large number of program alumni have gone on to attend dental school and become dentists, including at USC.

Andrea Ustarez, a graduate of Cal State LA in microbiology, said she was very pleased by the amount of hands-on experience provided by the program.

“I wasn’t expecting the amount of knowledge we’ve gotten, from tooth morphology to how to sit in a healthy way while treating patients,” Ustarez said.

Ustarez and her older sister, who is a practicing general dentist, were the first people in their family to attend college. She said that having a role model as well as getting to find out more about the career with the Dental Explorers Program has cemented her decision to attend dental school and return to her community to practice; her top dental school choice is the Ostrow School of Dentistry.

“The atmosphere is so welcoming here,” she said. “You hear about the Trojan Family, but now I’ve gotten here to witness it.”

James Blancarte, a sophomore bioengineering student at UC Riverside, is also a trailblazer as the first member of his family to attend college. He said the variety of specialties and wide scope of dentistry, as well as the opportunity to return to his community and serve the less fortunate, has him very excited about the prospect of becoming a dentist.

“This has been an amazing experience; I see myself here at Ostrow and practicing dentistry,” he said. “For people like me who have come from underprivileged communities, the Dental Explorers Program is really rewarding and motivating.”

Jasmine Rose, a junior at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, said she was also very excited to learn about the variety of avenues a dental career can take.

“Before, I thought it was just about extracting or cleaning teeth,” she said. “But now I know that there are so many things to specialize in. I give dentistry a lot more credit now.”

Rose wants to become a dentist and possibly specialize in pediatrics; once she realizes her dream, she will be the first member of her family to work in health care.

“I love science and math, and I love helping people,” she said. “I like to see people happy and to help them fulfill their goals.”