Monday, September 30, 2013

Should Keira Knightley get braces?

With the help of a reader, I realized she doesn’t actually have a Class III malocclusion (see below)! So in her case, she probably won’t benefit from braces. Although you may think otherwise if you’ve seen the first scenes from A Dangerous Method…

I was watching Last Night this weekend and recognized what was so unique about Keira Knightley’s smile. She has a Class III malocclusion! Probably skeletal, because her jaw comes out so forward.


In her case, it makes her look pensive and a little mischievous- it works for her. I think that she is so beautiful that having crooked teeth makes her only more endearing.



More fun reads about Keira Knightley (and people’s obsession with her teeth/bite/jaw):

- Keira Knightley’s chin versus Claire Dane’s
- Criticizing Knightley’s acting or her jaw?
- A Dangerous Method had her jaw talent on full display
- For Anna Karenina, Knightley was asked to be more mindful of her pouting

Did I really just spend an hour looking up articles about Keira Knightley and her dental problems? …

Saturday, September 28, 2013

first exam DOWN (ethical questions)

We had our first exam this week! In pharmacology. This exam was more about principles of biotransformation and drug interactions. We’ll be moving onto memorizing drug names (=LOTS of notecards!!!!) for the subsequent exams.

2013-09-22 23.52.03Typical pre-pharm exam conversations

Some interesting things I learned:

- Should we be vaccinated against cocaine? Kim Janda of Scripps and Ronald Crystal of Weill Cornell are working on attaching a cocaine-looking molecule to an adenovirus to prompt bodies into making cocaine antibodies. If cocaine got into your system subsequently, your body would recognize it as an “invader” and attack it efficiently. No baby gets born hoping for a lifetime of cocaine addiction but it still feels wrong…

- There is a black market for Buprenorphine (or Suboxone)! The guy interviewed about this NPR piece gives his name as “Mystery Man”. The way he says it, is too funny. When the government or the system cannot keep up with demands like this (and those who need Suboxone are heroine addicts- not a population of patients you want gathering at your clinic), is this okay? To hand these out to those who want to quit but cannot get the drug, under the table?

- FDA’s Orphan Products Grants Program with the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, U.S. provides funding for orphan drugs (diseases affecting less than 200,000 in the U.S.). The fact is, pharmaceutical companies- even with the wonderful ability to change or save someone’s life- are businesses. They need the money to get going.

Next week’s exam parade: three in one week!

Friday, September 27, 2013

first composite filling.

I placed my first composite filling this week!

With the completion of our first year training, we can do stuff that EFDA’s can do- that is, everything reversible. The student dentist I was assisting asked if I wanted to fill her prep with composite. YESSSSS!

I placed a little bit of increment, cured it. Of course, she then filled out the prep, contoured it and made it perfect again. I cannot wait for next year.

Meanwhile… hello dentures. If making one denture takes up an entire semester-long class, I don’t know how we’re going to do multiple dentures for our patients next year. Sometime between now and next year we’ll just get magically good.

2013-09-19 13.54.12

“Next year”. These two words give me so much hope and strength to keep going.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

happy gems from around the web

Some items I’m thinking about this week, from around the web.


It’s true that work is stupid when you think you’re about to die, but when you don’t think you’re about to die, you need work. Because you need purpose. You each need to feel like there’s something bigger than yourself.

If I were to die tomorrow (like the ladies on Titanic who passed up dessert) would I still be doing what I’m doing? Would I regret having worked so hard for some delayed happiness years later? Dental school is no picnic. I couldn’t think of a good answer- until now. I do need something bigger, something down the road that I’m working towards.

  • From NY Times Small Businesses blog by Jay Goltz
    I think there are times when you should quit; for example, if you finally figure out that your business is not going to work, or that it is too demanding, or that you just aren’t happy…
    It does help to maintain perspective. Nobody ever said business was easy. But it should become easier as you go along…If you have the brains and the ability and the means to start a business, you are one of the lucky minority who either make money on their own terms, or go broke trying! Hallelujah! God bless America.

Same thing. There are times when you should quit! I know for some people it makes complete sense to take time off dental school or to quit it completely. We have every right to make that decision for ourselves. (I think it’s the taking responsibility that’s the hard part, not the quitting itself.) But with Goltz’s second point (and I’m modifying it to fit dental school lives), we got this far! And we’re the lucky ones to be here.

Alex’s puppy gives me rose-tinted glasses.2013-09-20 13.03.03

Last point: I stumbled upon this and find myself turning to this idea time and time again.

Defusion is a term used by psychologists to describe a state of achieving distance from internal experiences such as thoughts and feelings.  When you think a thought, it “colors” your world.  When you see a thought from a distance, you can still see how it “colors” your world (you understand what it means), but you also see that you are doing the “coloring.”  It would be as if you always wore yellow sunglasses and forgot you were wearing them.  Defusion is like taking off your glasses and holding them several inches away from your face; then you can see how they make the world appear to be yellow instead of only seeing the yellow world.

When I’m getting frustrated or really upset, I ask myself what color glasses I’m wearing. It’s like a feeling check for when everything seems to go wrong. Often I find that it’s not the situation (or everyone else), it’s me. So I need to step away and do a feelings check, reset.

What color glasses are you wearing today? Happy? Anxious? Irritated? Hopeful?
(You can also think about the extent of this feeling. I’ve been feeling “quietly hopeful”.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Make time (happy Chuseok!)

This year feels different. This summer I made the decision to put more weight on health- in all forms, spiritual, emotional, and physical. My emotions sway wildly back and forth and with the heavy workload of dental school, it’s like multiplying that amplitude by a thousand.

In celebration of Chuseok (the Korean harvest festival) this week, I got Korean food with Bri & it made me so profoundly happy. I was feeling so homesick and sad at missing the family get-together at my grandma’s. But this dinner (and the anticipation leading up to this dinner) cheered me right up!

2013-09-19 18.13.35

Now I’m off to study more drugs for our first pharmacology exam. So many drugs! But things are starting to make sense now.

I finally understood how the alpha-1, beta-1, and beta-2 receptors work. Sometimes they respond together; other times we can selectively stimulate or block them! I’m pretty sure I learned it five times in college…

This blog is wonderfully awesome: pic from here.


Going to read my impossibly small-fonted Excel file of drugs and go right onto bed. This weekend was wonderful not because I got so much studying done but because I got to do so many things I enjoy. If that ultimately means I don’t get that grade, well, I made my choice on how I choose to spend my time.

2013-09-21 21.53.27

Tomorrow is another day! (Oh- it’s already “tomorrow.”)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

out of context but profound

Professor: “Just reach higher.”
Student: “But what are you reaching for?”

Okay, this conversation was about maxillary anesthesia. (We’re going to be practicing on each other soon! I don’t want dental students poking me with needles and giving me hematomas. But I guess I don’t want dentists doing that.)

I always want to do better and make myself better. But for me “better” is usually just a concept or an idea, not a concrete goal. Maybe I need to think about what I’m reaching for.


I’m great goal-setting with grades or exam scores. But other goals in my life stay kinda hazy. “I want to be healthy”. “I want to make time for friends and family”.

Something else geeky or funny I thought about yesterday: we dental students use the word “armamentarium” as part of our natural vocabulary. I didn’t even know what this word before starting dental school!

Do you set your goal in numbers? With hard deadlines?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ongoing dentures

Lab is going! Dentures is wax and flames all day every day.

I tried to make my impression (and the beading and boxing) leak-proof. I checked it with water to make sure I didn’t have gaps in my wax interfaces and the underside became SO messy in the end.

bead and box

Our professor calls the two dentures “Max” and “Mandy”. You know, for maxilla and mandible. So cute and it totally makes sense because these two have to meet and work in perfect harmony.

record basin

The weather’s beautiful here. This is when you can tell where our dental school classmates are from. People from up north (and Canada) are totally fine while Floridians think this is already winter. Before you know it, winter and snow will be here.

I need to go look up how to remove wax from clothes. I have drops of wax all over my clothes: dental school problems!

Monday, September 16, 2013

be perfectly happy.

This weekend was just so-so. I had a bit of a personal crisis but I’m better thanks to my supportive friends. Thank you Lo, thank you AQ for picking up the phone. You two are my emergency contacts even if you’re hundreds of miles away.

I took the rest of the weekend off with tons of Netflix and reading. I love that the weather is so beautiful this time of the year. You can’t go outside and not be happy. So I’m trying to focus on the positives in my life.

It’s perfect fall weather here in Philadelphia.
My Saturday morning was perfect- with scarves, boots, and worship.fall

brunch at Amada for Philly Restaurant Week with the girls. (loved this bean salad)2013-09-15 12.51.28

And the first exam is still more than a week away!exams

Life is good!!! I should be happy. But here’s something that’s given me a lot of relief (thank you Lo): a problem is real if you perceive it to be real! Don’t dismiss your problems because you don’t think they are important enough.

I’m going to turn in early tonight, read some good poems. Dental school starts 8AM tomorrow yet again. Good night!

Friday, September 13, 2013

placing dentures

At Penn dental, the first and second year dental students assist upperclassmen in clinic.

This week I got to place final dentures on a real patient! I didn’t make those dentures and it wasn’t my patient, but I got to put it in the patient’s mouth for the final fitting. It’s like I skipped all the difficult steps and went straight to the happy ending.


The patient spoke differently (so much better “fifty-six” and “Mississippi”) & the patient was just SO happy.

It helps me so much to see the bigger picture. We are spending hours upon hours in lab learning how to do these procedures. The casts above took me six hours to do: take the alginate impression (multiple times), pour the stone on the impression (just twice!), trim it up to correct width and height. I get lost in the small details and frustrate myself in the process too often. It gets hot in the lab with all the flames and I emerge covered in dust and impression compound, exhausted, defeated even.

But remembering that we are doing this for some happy patient in the future, that’s what really matters. And reminding myself that I’m a beginner at this whole denture thing! (or even this whole dentist thing)! Everyone has to take baby steps starting out. It might take me a while but I’ll get there.

Monday, September 9, 2013

remember this interview question.

There is an interview question from my dental school application days that I didn’t think about until now: “How do you deal with stress?”

I thought it was like any other interview question: to evaluate you, to see if you are a good fit for the school, to see if the admissions committee should accept you into this dental school. And I answered it like that.


But the answer is real. It’s real in the sense that this matters in your everyday life. Knowing how you deal with stress and pressure is a REAL problem here in dental school. Dental school has pushed my boundaries and I find myself repeatedly asking, “Am I dealing with pressure healthily? Am I feeling this way because I’m just under so much stress?”

Lately I’ve had times where I was just overwhelmed with stress. Like I don’t know what to do with myself because I’m so frustrated and irritable. And I keep asking my friends and colleagues this question: “How do you deal with stress?” (With the unspoken words: “Because I am not dealing with it effectively and you seem to be keeping it together pretty well and I need help.”)


I’m still figuring it out as I go. But I love running while singing, snuggling up with a good book, or talking it out with a trusted friend followed by a long journal session. In undergraduate I loved going dancing, followed by 2AM Tex-Mex sessions. Growing up? (=boring?) 

What interview question do you remember from your interviews?
Has the way you deal with stress changed since dental school?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

my bracket came off.

It was bound to happen one day or another. My bracket came off.

At my last appointment I got brackets attached to the entire arch. The ones on the lower molars often “pop off” because the upper molars hit them when you chew. My ortho put acrylics on the occlusal plane of my molars (called “splints”) to keep an open bite- to keep the brackets on.

Two things: 1) It felt incredibly weird to have an open bite where my front teeth, the incisors, didn’t touch. But that’s how my bite was before I got braces. So that’s incredibly cool and wonderful at the same time. 2) Since my brackets got re-adjusted, for one hot minute I didn’t have any brackets on my teeth. I felt that experience everyone who’s had braces warned me about: my teeth felt so slimy and weird.

Anyway, the blue acrylic piece which kept my bite a little open fell off. During dinner when I was eating chewy noodles.

And soon the bracket came off while I was eating dinner with lentils and sweet potatoes! (I’m on a A+ patient diet of mushy things that don’t go crunch- which fortunately includes this goat cheese popsicle from Lil' Pop Shop.)


I have to admit … I feel like I’d let my orthodontist down. I believed I was the model patient who didn’t need emergency appointments. #dentalstudentproblems?

Meanwhile, we’re taking orthodontics. I’m learning all about what those terms actually mean! Orthodontics feels so very distinct from general dentistry. It’s a lot of thinking and projecting and requires the orthodontist to keep moving with an evolving problem. Too cool.

Monday, September 2, 2013

so about this second year…

Second year’s started! And yes, it’s been crazy. We got off to a hit-the-ground-running start with 8 hours of classes every day. I’m so thankful for this long weekend.

I was overwhelmed and I felt like my head was barely above water. And when we got out of class at 3PM on Friday afternoon, I felt like I could finally breathe. Some things I want to remember this year, from the mandatory “lab philosophy” primer lecture for our second year GRD lab:

(We are working on edentulous patients making dentures this year! So we got these instead of the ones with plastic teeth.)

Don’t assume you will be good at something at one try. Who knows? You might get it right on the first try like some brilliant and lucky people. But spending hours doing something over and over again will make you better at it. I believe it! (Hi alginate impressions!)


You have the next 30 years to perfect your skills- this shouldn’t be your best work. Our professor emphasized that we are not supposed to hit our peak now and become complacent with our skills. It’s more important to recognize good work and try to hit that level of expertise ourselves. Our best is only going to get better.

And so it begins! Another year of dental school: learning, trials and hopefully triumph.