Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Yes, I want braces!"

I remember when I first went in for my ortho consult. Several dental students stood over me and discussed whether or not I was a candidate for braces. I remember catching terms like "open-bite", "mouth-breather" and "retained mamelons". Hint: if you see these rough edges on your front teeth, you might have an open bite (aka can't bite the lettuce in sandwiches):

Just two years later, I'm on the other side of the chair- quite literally. We had our first orthodontic rotation this week and our job was to diagnose malocclusion in potential orthodontics patients.

It was kind of fun! Because these kiddos came in SO enthusiastic and happy, care-free. I'd ask, "So, do you want braces?" and each one of them answered a big happy "YES!"- peer pressure is an amazing thing. They asked me if I got to choose my band colors and if the bands came in their favorite color. It was hard not to let that enthusiasm spill over. "Yeah I love my braces!" I'd think, "It's so much fun."

I just got my own reminder phone call from Penn about my ortho appointment for this week. It feels like I just had my last ortho appointment (I count my days in two ways: my ortho appointments and running out of coffee.) I'm at that point where I nervously walk into each visit wondering if I'll hear the magical words today ("de-bond").

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pre-dent advice from Dave: 4. Applying through AADSAS during the power summers

Dave writes faster than a typewriter. :-) After I commissioned him to write a couple of blog posts for me, he powered through these comprehensive and thorough posts & had them in my inbox, one after the other. The key idea is this: everything takes time! And in the world of dental applications, time is money, figuratively speaking. Get hustling. There’s an admissions officer somewhere ready to stamp your application with a big “ACCEPTED” stamp.

Check out the entire Pre-dent advice series from Dave:
1. The basic application checklist 
2. DAT study material tips
3. DAT test day & interpreting your DAT score 
The time has finally come – your DAT is scheduled/taken, your letters of rec are being written, and you’re perfecting your personal statement. As the calendar turns to June, you should start thinking about and be seriously prepared to apply through AADSAS – The ADEA’s American Dental Schools Application Service – what a mouthful! Below are some suggestions to guide you through this stressful (and exciting) time.

This year's guide- from the ADEA Instagram account

  • Apply Early: Most dental schools use rolling admissions, so start filling out the application as soon as it opens. Usually this date is around June 1st. Every week new applications are released from the service to the schools, so as more weeks fly by, the later your application will be seen. You can apply without a DAT score, so if your letters of rec/transcripts are in, pay & apply! 
  • Do two things RIGHT AWAY: These take some processing time, so do them as soon as you access the application:
    1. Request official transcripts: Every school you attended after high school needs to send transcripts to AADSAS with a special match form you fill out. Then the application service needs to verify your coursework & GPA. This takes time!

    2. Start the letter of rec request: If you have a committee writing the letter, put in the point of contact’s info for the upload. If you have physical writers being sent, put in their contact info. Once their info is in the system, remind your letter writers to follow their special link to upload/send to the address. Once received, the application service has to confirm authenticity. This also takes time!

Be Prepared, Have Everything Ready: The application will be completely closed for preview before June, but find a friend or colleague from previous years who printed their application/saved a digital copy. Peruse the sections so you know what to expect. As I mentioned in my first blog post, have these ready
  1. Unofficial transcripts: You will need to list every course, number of credits, and grade EXACTLY as seen on your transcript. Have copies ready. Your big task will be splitting courses into science and non-science designators; if ever in question, call AADSAS!
  2. Personal statement: If it’s already complete and within the character count, all you will have to do is copy and paste. The website is not quite like a word processor, so just make sure to re-format quickly.
  3. List of Schools: The website will simply display a list of 65 dental schools with a box next to each to check off – don’t sit there like a fool – know which schools you are applying to beforehand!
  4. Resume: You will need to record all job shadowing, volunteering, research, and work experience. There is also a space for hobbies requiring manual dexterity. Have this information ready and waiting on a resume or list.
+Money: To use AADSAS, there is a processing fee of $244 + $90 fee/school to be paid online. Have a winning lottery ticket, sugar daddy, or parent ready to pay – just kidding, I mean credit card!
There will be other sections to fill out, such as demographic information, financial background, and family information, but it is much more straightforward. Complete the application in a timely manner! Your DAT score is sent to each dental school separately; the only thing you put in AADSAS is the date you took/will take the exam. Remember, APPLY EARLY!'

Fill out Secondary Applications: Most dental schools require a separate fee paid to them, additional essays/information, photographs, and other goodies. The exact requirements are listed in AADSAS – there is a separate list you can access with the address or website where you will be completing the secondary application.

When do you do this? Do this while filling out the application or immediately after you pay and submit AADSAS! Some schools will e-mail you to indicate when you should complete additional materials. Your application to individual schools will not be complete without them. Many schools will send you receipts of materials; if you are in doubt, just call, but don’t pester daily!

Mentally Prepare: Once submitted, three things may happen:

  1. Interview invitation: Congrats! All dental schools require interviews in person, and this invitation is the next step towards acceptance into their program! You will have to schedule an interview trip.

  2. Rejection: Some schools may decide not to interview you for the application cycle. 
Nothing: Some dental schools may never respond to you until months/one year later. They may even ignore calls or e-mails from you.
Yesle: You may get an email about this change in your application status… or you won’t. Make sure to check back on your AADSAS portal daily. Also about the 3. Nothing possibility, there are schools I still haven't heard back from... three years later.

I experienced all three of these scenarios. Be ready for anything. Anxiety is at a high while waiting for the call, so fill your time wisely: Work, study, exercise, and settle into your hobbies as normal. Don’t seize up and panic!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

not quite a dentist yet, but dentist lite

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend! It was so hot in Philadelphia this weekend. Low 90's with an unbearable humidity. I felt like I was back in Houston. No need for saunas, just step outside.

I spent my Saturday night talking dentistry with strangers. I was volunteering and as soon as my co-volunteers found out I was a dental student, conversation began flowing. In my experience, people respond in one of three ways when they found out I'm in dental school: 
  1. Don't judge my teeth! I haven't been wearing my retainers/been to the dentist/have to go soon.
  2. I have the worst nightmare story about my dentist experience.
  3. What made you want go to dental school (and not medical school)?
Don't get me wrong, I love talking about teeth, occlusion, braces, dentistry, prophys... But we have this golden rule in dentistry: thou shalt not talk ill of other dentists. So when my new friend told me that she went to the ER with intense pain and her dentist completed root canal therapy on her tooth the next morning... and the pain didn't go away at all, I was all o_o .

She wanted to know what had happened. And what has to happen now. 
I've been learning everything dentistry for the last two years. Penn's taught me well. It's crazy to me how much I know. Like when Enstin was considering third molar extractions or Mark was having occlusion problems, I was able to answer many of their questions. But I have limited clinical experience and most of my knowledge comes secondhand.

I have neither the years/decades of experience or hundreds of patients or study club discussions to back up what I only know theoretically. Here's something Dr. Kohli (whose endodontics office is just GORGEOUS) said this in class last week. It really hit me hard.

Every case is different because dentist's clinical expertise and patient's needs/preferences differ. I intuitively feel this is true but I have to get out there and see for myself all the different cases- so I can know this.

So while I'm excited about how many coins of knowledge I've saved up in my piggy bank, I know there is a long ways to go. Clinic starts up again this week! The neon blue scrubs life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

being back in the dental school classroom

As third year dental students, we are back in the classroom for first two weeks. Having a long weekend right after a hectic full-day schedule was wonderful. Dave asked me if I was going to post his pre-dental admissions advice series (because it's been Tuesdays with Dave) and I had to admit I wasn't... Let's skip a week, please?


We learned about pericoronal abscesses... which actually happened to Enstin. She and I've been discussing her upcoming third molar extractions. I can actually address her concerns and answer her dental questions! I didn't know how much I knew, but I realize I've been steeping in all this dentistry/oral surgery/pathology knowledge! It's pretty wonderful...

What to do when you lose a tooth: FYI. Replant and water every day until it grows up nice and strong. Give sunshine.

Pretty soon we'll be back in clinic and taking exams! And studying hard and drinking tons of coffee and maybe looking half as chic as this (is V watching youtube videos???):

I've been helping a friend with his own application ( & hopefully admission) process and the excitement is rubbing off on me in the most wonderful way. I'm remembering what it felt like to WANT to be in so bad. With every interview trip, it was like trying on new shoes. What would my life look like if I went here? If I lived in this city, in this climate? 

For those of you who are in dental school, is your life what you expected it to be? How is it better and/or different? I finally finished Thinking Fast and Slow (my brother making book recommendations- isn't he so grown-up?) and Kahneman says people overestimate the amount of happiness one happy event will bring. The happiness peaks and then quickly fades away to baseline. But recalling those moments can rejuvenate you. What's that quote about not going to sleep because reality is better than your dreams? I felt that way when I first got that "You're accepted!" phone call. How did you celebrate your acceptances when that call/email/letter came? Sending in your final "I'll come here!" deposit?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

when do you feel grown-up?

Do you ever feel like your age just catches up to you? I've been feeling very old-soul this weekend. I used to listen to NPR at my 6AM lifeguarding shifts. One of the coaches always teased me, asking "Do you also hate chocolate chip cookies?" He would ask, "Do you also hate fluffy puppies?"

Lately I've been feeling it a lot. I think it's my new apartment and my new grown-up responsibilities. I'm reading this book "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" by Allen Carr.  A friend successfully quit smoking cold turkey with this book and recommended it to me the future dentist. Reading it, I've been asking myself... I have my own bad habits and vices I can't break. Who am I to tell someone what to do (or not to do)?

Now I'm finding myself shopping for a matching dinner set (!!!!) and looking up home deco tips. All while yawning at 10PM on a weekend night.

It's that customer service phone call (assertive and courteous!), finding the perfect gift for your brother, pulling off a home-cooked meal for two. Looking forward to early Sunday mornings and celebrating with some wine (not shots). Sometimes I feel very 25 going on 50. I think what I miss most about being young is the careless laughter. Making a big mess and not worrying hours ahead about the clean-up...