EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and El Paso Community College announced a “strategic partnership” Friday, Sept. 22 to improve oral health care in the Borderland region while reducing the region’s short of qualified dental hygienists.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas has fewer dental hygienists per capita than the national average. Adding to this disparity, COVID-19 saw many dental hygienists leave the profession.

“In our Borderplex region, the shortage is more acute, with only one dental hygienist for every 4,200 residents, compared to one for every 2,000 residents in the rest of Texas,” according to a news release announcing the partnership.

This new partnership aims to alleviate some of the pressing issues surrounding dental care access and health inequities. The initiative is an integral part of both institutions’ strategy to mitigate provider shortages and improve access to dental services, particularly for underserved communities, according to the news release.

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine was established in 2021 and is the first dental school to be started in Texas in over 50 years. It is also the only dental school located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The school distinguishes itself from other dental schools by providing students with early clinical and patient interaction opportunities at the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic, according to the news release.