What I wish I Knew Before Going to Dental School

Me pictured above practicing and
perfecting my preps in the simulation lab
(2nd year of dental school)
This is one of the most common questions I get asked by pre-dental and dental students ( followed by, If you had to, would you do dental school all over again? - that is for a different post).
First of all, let me start by saying that getting accepted into dental school was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Becoming a dentist was the career choice I made at a pretty early age and worked tirelessly towards that goal. I remember saying "If I could just get into dental school, the rest would be history!" and so it was, but little did I know...

Fast forward a couple years later and these are a few of the things I wish I had known before going to dental school:

1. The Best Decision of my Life
Dental school was great! I can say that now that it is over for me, but you will not necessarily feel this way going through the process. When I think about the totality of experiences I had, the life long friends and colleagues I made and the lifestyle that it affords, I cannot honestly think of a profession that I would have preferred. I love what I do! and it is very rewarding.

2. That it would test you not only mentally but spiritually, emotionally, financially and otherwise.
There will be many exams throughout your four years of dental school. You will spend countless hours studying and may even at times have to pull an all-nighter or two (I do not recommend this). When there aren't regular semester exams there are board exams and they can be stressful. Besides those tests, there are situations that will test almost every facet of your being. You have to have the mental fortitude for the myriad of things that get thrown at you. There will be requirements and deadlines and things that are totally out of your control that you will somehow be responsible for. I have had friends who at one point completely broke down under the pressure and likewise there were the ones who thrived under the pressure; who used that pressure as fuel and rose to the occasion. Regardless of which category you end up falling under, it will build character and you will end up being thankful for those experiences.

3. Note taking skills
It is very important that you have good and accurate notes and outlines. You will have to pay keen attention to this for at least your first 2 years of dental school.  You will have to figure out quite quickly the best way for you to take notes. You may prefer the good ol' traditional pen and paper, or you may prefer to use a note taking app on your computer if you're a fast typer. Personally I made notes on or at the bottom of the power point presentations that were released for each class and I sometimes just took quick notes in a physical notebook as I can write faster than I can type. There were colleagues of mine however who preferred such tools as Microsoft One Note or another note taking app with cool features.

4. That all my textbooks would be electronic and that I would rarely read them (shameless)
I don't know about you but I am traditional when it comes to my books. I like to open a book and smell the fresh scent of paper, I want to feel the pages under my fingers and I want the opportunity to use my physical highlighter and sticky-notes. So needless to say, I found it cumbersome to use my electronic textbooks the way that they were intended to be used. I mainly used the powerpoints issued, took really good notes and used the books as references - or use almighty Google and YouTube (thank God for them).

5. Study Habits
Figure this out quickly! As in, before your first major exam quickly. You will be doing a lot of it and you will be tested constantly so it would be wise to figure it out before those grades start to go in and become part of your permanent record (yikes). Do you study better with a partner? Do you study on your own and then meet up with a group for discussion? Do you prefer group study all together or are you the type that do best on your own? Take a little time to figure out what works best for you - just not too much time.

6. Dental School is FUN! and there is TIME
I know all the above sounds daunting but contrary to popular belief, there were lots of fun times in dental school. You will make very good life long friends and attend each others weddings, baby showers and birthday parties. There is TIME to do what ever you want to do. You don't have to give up your hobbies and the things you like to do for fun. There will be time for vacation and spending time with family and loved ones. Many people were surprised that I was able to keep this blog up and running all throughout dental school! It all boils down to how well you manage your time.

If you are about to start dental school, be excited! but also be prepared. You are in for a treat.


Feel free to contact me with questions or leave comments below.








4 comments:

Hanis Rahimah Hassan said...

Hi :) I'm Hanis and currently waiting for my intake to a dental school. I just want to ask what things should i prepare for, like any books or materials ? Thank you and love your blog !

Patrice Smith said...

Hi Hanis, Congrats on going to dental school!!
Honestly, I would take the time now to just relax. You will plenty of book time once you start dental school.
However, you can take a look in the Dental School materials tab (top of page) to find some helpful books and materials.
Continue to visit the blog, and feel free to email me as well.

Thorough Lad said...

I generally suggest my dentist Hermosa Beach and his pleasant staff to all my loved ones who are searching for a dental practitioner. They are exceptional. As of late, they changed two old fillings for me.

Patrice Smith said...

Good to know Thorough Lad :)

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