Dental hygiene 2024 graduate aims to build confidence through compassion

Natalie Cordeiro, a 2024 graduate of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry
Natalie Cordeiro, soon to become a 2024 graduate of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry, celebrates with fellow students and faculty of the Dental Hygiene Department for their first-place win in the university’s 2022 Spirit Week photo contest.


The work of cleaning teeth, Natalie Cordeiro believes, is a transformative experience for the patient and the dental hygienist performing the work.

“I saw a patient who had severe dental anxiety. I was able to talk to her about where it came from and console her,” she said. “I felt so satisfied at the end of that appointment because she felt better about her oral health and coming to the dentist. All of that reminded me why I chose this field in the first place.”

Natalie Cordeiro, School of Dentistry, Class of 2024
Natalie Cordeiro, School of Dentistry, Class of 2024

Cordeiro will join The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry graduating class of 2024 this month as she receives a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.

Early in her academic career, Cordeiro considered a career in sign language interpretation. She said she learned sign language in a middle-school afterschool program and continued her studies in college. But the dental hygiene program was equally intriguing.


Combining her interests

Cordeiro said the idea of receiving a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene —when dental hygiene programs typically require only an associate’s degree — convinced her to accept the invitation to join the dental program. However, she said, the deaf community will hold a special place in her heart and, she hopes, in her dental career.

“I definitely would love to incorporate sign language in my office to give access to those patients,” she said. “I would love to go back and finish my interpreting degree to make sure I’m accurately signing medical terms. But I definitely feel like that could be something I could use to relate with patients and be welcoming to a community that may not feel welcome.”

Being compassionate and in service to others are lessons she learned while growing up. Her family participated in mission trips worldwide, and three of her siblings were adopted from Taiwan. Those experiences and moving from Oregon to several cities in California and, eventually, to Texas, helped her learn to adapt to any situation.

“It was a different childhood growing up, but it was fun, and I think that it helped make me into who I am today,” she said.


Life beyond the classroom

Cordeiro, who served as class president and the Student American Dental Hygiene Association president at the university, said she enjoyed using her innate leadership skills to benefit her classmates.

“I feel I’ve learned so much in the past year of being president. My organizational and communication skills have improved. Overall, it’s helped me be a more well-rounded person,” she said.

Cordeiro said she has many memories from her two years at the university, but one that stands out is winning a team spirit photo competition. She said the junior and senior classes gathered props and confetti to create a winning photo.

“I will miss this teamwork and being together with other students. Having this collaboration with my peers and seeing the difference we’re making in people’s lives together and working like this is something I’m never going to have again,” she said. “This is such a big group of people; we all have the same ideas and goals. It felt so special to be in that moment and to be with both those classes.”

As Cordeiro looks to the future, she hopes to continue working in service to her community with her husband, who is graduating from Texas State University this month.

“I look forward to expanding myself and maybe going on mission trips,” she said. “There are so many options with this degree, and I’m looking forward to exploring those options.”


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