Sunday, June 21, 2015

my tooth extraction experience

It's the summer! Going to school in bright sunshine makes everything better. Even when we're leaving early to prepare for that 8AM patient, nothing's bad when you're sipping on iced coffee. I'm slowly nibbling my way through my summer to-do list, all the things to be checked off before leaving to externship. Update tidbits:

- Pottery is going wonderfully. Now that cylinders have become easy, I want to leave my comfort zone and push myself to fail (sometimes). Pottery has been such a metaphor for personal growth in my life.

- For the first time, I signed up for a CSA share. Every week this summer, I get a box of surprise vegetable and fruits from a local farm. I've been getting my three servings a day with fun new veggies such as rhubarb, fennel, garlic scapes...

- The career trifecta of patients, boards, and post-graduation plans. This could be another post in itself because I have nightmares about one of those three any given night: "what do you mean I didn't submit a preauthrotization?" One step at a time, with lots of sticky notes, planning sessions, and cheeky pens. And tons of support from friends. 

- Losing that pesky #16. My teeth are all sorts of weird, you know, so my third molar started giving me trouble at age 26 when I was out of town. Huge perk about being a dental student: you can extract your own wisdom tooth! Nah, but I got a consult for myself ("patient is a 26 y/o Asian female...") and scheduled an extraction in our oral surgery clinic. In and out in minutes, with the help of three wonderful dental student assistants who did my work-up, gave me moral support, took sneaky photos... 


Isn't this the cutest little tooth pebble you've seen?

- Being a lion. There was a time I couldn't sleep well on Monday and Tuesday nights, my head filling up with all the details of next day's appointments. Being a lion means having that swagger, not because you got the fanciest mane or the sharpest teeth, but because you know in your heart of hearts that you can do this. As Dr. N says, "don't let a tooth beat you." 


Also remembering to laugh through it all. Because (okay, maybe my boyfriend is right and I am obsessed with our Group 58 Lion #cult) as Dr. N says, "what's the point if you're not having fun?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Now we're the seniors.

It’s the craziest thing. The seniors are all gone. The seniors that looked so confident and so cool, were rumored to not spend hours poring over next day’s procedure (what!), and were on the verge of graduation. Now that’s us- the seniors.

My chair says "senior" so that must mean I'm one...


As Dr. N says, the train is coming and you feel the wind blowing in your face. 

Just call me Midas.

I’m graduating in less than year, you guys. My friend sent me a snapchat of this year’s graduation and I had an emotional moment. Sharon and I talk about this all the time: we’re going to graduate! We’re going to get out of here! This is impermanent! That giant toothbrush is coming for us!

I still have a checklist of procedures I want to do. But last week while doing a tricky procedure, I felt strangely calm and confident. Sometimes your ambitious day (I’m delivering FOUR inlays today! whoop!) is your humbling moment (it’s 6PM and I delivered all of one inlay, yay.) I have a good working knowledge of how materials work, what to look for when doing final cementations, and how to find relevant information (product catalogs and older/experienced dentists). The good days build on my confidence, the worse days keep me humble. Everything I do matters.

Thanks for sending me on a tearfest with this snap.

I'm still working on that swagger thing though. Can you believe that a key word of my dental school experience will be swagger? Among all the dentally relevant ones: convergence, retention, "slaking", pulp health... swagger.

Monday, May 25, 2015

pause here: getaway weekend

I'm at a coffee shop on a sunny morning & just fell off my chair trying to grab a pen under the table. Still feeling a little sick and dizzy. Time to go home after hitting that publish button? Definitely yes.

One sign of being burnt out: you can’t stop talking about work. Put a BIG RED checkmark on that because I’ve been singing the POINTS song in my sleep. Every time I fell quiet and looked pensive, my boyfriend didn’t have to ask what I was thinking about: dental school.


Last weekend, a group of us took a vacation to New Jersey. Huge grassy backyard, pool with a diving board, dinosaur mint leaves in the backyard, and the beach twenty minutes away.

For the long weekend, I read by the pool, slept in, ate amazing food (French toast and clams grilled over open fire), and melted into a sunny, non-dental bliss. Oh! And we went to Target. Very important.

I brought along Quiet by Susan Cain. Between this and Gretchen Rubin, I keep thinking about what GRubin says: “unique, just like everyone else”. Not everyone thinks the way I do, nor do they feel the things I do. Marcel sent me this thought-provoking link about universality of human experiences- more specifically, how they aren't. People experience reality in different ways. I’m experiencing this profoundly with Marcel, that we think in fundamentally different ways and prefer different activities (morning or night? dinner parties or drinks at a bar?).

This is what it comes down to: I might envy those who can work nonstop. Wake up at 5AM and write for two hours before work every day. Do it again the next day and the day after. But for me? As much as I admire this trait in others, I don’t function that way, I need to recharge and relax.

I must have smiled like an idiot the following week. I found myself daydreaming my way back to that happy place. Waking up at 7AM sans an alarm. Rest of the house is sleeping, so I tiptoe downstairs and step outside, barefoot. Sitting by the pool, hearing the birds calling and the sky so blue.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I laugh at my own dentist jokes

I'm going to tell you a dental joke. Here's why you should become an endodontist: no patient is gonna come to you and say, “I don’t like this color gutta percha.”

If you don''t get it, the joke is this: gutta percha is the rubber that goes inside the tooth during a root canal procedure & no one ever sees it. Color matching is an art in dentistry, especially for crowns and veneers... but not for gutta percha. 

Trying to convince your non-dentist boyfriend that you're actually funny- is one thing. Explaining specific dental procedures to interested patients is another- perhaps more real- challenge. 

try not to laugh when you find dental burs on the bathroom floor

I assume people know things: implants, fillings (simple versus inlays/onlays), and crowns. But to be honest with you, I didn't know the difference before dental school. What is a "prep"? (when you cut the tooth to prepare it for the filling). What is a "prophy"? (prophylactic cleaning, the usual 6 month visit to the dentist.) 

So when a patient asks me, "what are implants exactly?" I have to pause and consciously use those simple terms. Not too scary, but not condescending. Because sometimes, I am so darn impressed at myself using those fancy words: "sub-gingival chamfer needs to be more apical". Best thing: when you start using abbreviations like a badass. Sub gingival? Sub-G, dudes.

Everything becomes interesting in small pieces. For example, I'm learning all about the finance world thanks to my boyfriend and his roommate. I'm finally getting a grip on what seemed so hazy and mysterious to me. Analogies help. So do patience and humor.

my huge Texas grocery bag now carries all my dental lab goodies (and makes me smile)


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some smiles, some tears.

AQ reminded me that it's been a month since I last posted! To be completely honest, blogging just fell through the cracks while I was hosting some lovely ladies, riding through our exam marathon, and catching up on clinic. Third year of dental school is such a roller coaster ride. Some days I am joyous. Other days, I want to crawl on the floor and put my hot cheeks on the cold, cold ground.

Some noteworthy things have happened though, like me burning my hand in clinic. This was a silly freak accident! I had to leave my patient, file an incident report, and walk to Student Health while crying and laughing. My hand hurt SO bad but I couldn't believe what had happened- and that this had happened to me.

Even just last week, my faculty was asking me about "your hurt" and "the trauma". Such dramatic words but for five minutes that afternoon, I was sitting on my chair just dripping tears onto my lap. The memory makes me laugh (and cry) because ridiculous things happening = just part of dental school life. Now my colleagues have seen the worst of me...


I keep thinking about why I'm in dental school. Besides the main reason that I'm not a senior yet (gotta hit that 1500 points!), what am I trying to learn here? I want to have a deliberate reason for coming to 40th and Locust every morning. 

Dental school experience can be isolating. It's hard for me to speak to my non-dental friends because everything I do has become so technical! For example, I can't explain to my boyfriend why a last-minute change from resin to amalgam was frustrating. Or the difficulties of trying to do a Class III on a crowded anterior. 

My classmate made this foil flower for me in clinic. 

It's an emotional roller coaster. I'm trying my best to be patient with those around me & to grant them attention and love. When I'm freaking out about the number of fillings I've done this month (ONE) and how many denture cases I need (SEVEN), I remember what my faculty said: "There's class, clinic, and the real important stuff."


But it's spring. My favorite flower vendor is back at the Farmer's Market. And it's impossible to be sad when there are literally flowers raining all over you on your walk home. I'm also finally getting this pottery stuff. I just threw a cupcake holder this afternoon & have the cutest plate on my coffee table now- I actually teared up when I saw that plate. Yeah, that emotional roller coaster (aka dental school) leaves your emotion meter all confused.

Iced coffee, running in shorts, pink, and orange. Everything is good.