Saturday, March 23, 2013

dental assisting and occlusion

Dental Auxiliary Unit (DAU), or really dental-assisting upperclassmen, has been pretty fun. I’m in a smaller clinic so I enjoy seeing a more intimate group of students regularly. It’s interesting to see how clinical procedures differ from preclinical stuff. Professors tell us all the time: Put on your gloves! Don’t cradle the head! Think about the patient’s comfort! They want to prepare us for “upstairs”.

Current fourth years remember when DAU first was incorporated into the curriculum. I assisted a D4 this year who remembered the good (and the bad) parts of assisting, so she made sure to explain every procedure to me as she was doing them. It was like shadowing my dentist for dental applications all over again! We assist in four-hour increments but time goes by quickly when you’re actually doing stuff- same for GRD lab and cadaver dissections.

2013-02-09 21.20.48

Speaking of GRD lab, our great section on occlusion wrapped up. We had no less than three lab assignments and two exams on occlusion… because it’s that important. TMJ disorders affect more than ten millions Americans and since teeth play a huge role in how you bite down, dentists need to be thoroughly knowledgeable on occlusion. We made bite registration models, teeth impressions (and poured out into stone models), equilibrated each tooth to occlude correctly…

…. and I learned just how messed up my occlusion is. I have no canine guidance. My bite doesn’t come down on the long axis of my molars. And so on.


Lab can be frustrating sometimes but it’s so exciting when you finally get it right. I’ll walk outside with hazy vision (literally- from staring 19 inches ahead for three hours) but happy.

In addition to learning the dental procedures, we’re learning how to self-assess (it’s especially important in real life when you don’t have dental school professors looking over your shoulder after every procedure). So sometimes I’ll complete a procedure (we’re doing Class I preps- “prepping” the teeth by drilling out the cavity to be filled with amalgam or composite) and know right away that this one is a re-do.

I’m happy we’re learning actual dental procedures! But a couple friends and I discussed how “scary” this is. Because if you don’t get this right, maybe you start thinking dentistry is not for you (????). Our clinical professors assured us that with time and perseverance, everyone will get there eventually. But I think the fear is still there.