Wednesday, February 26, 2014

best thing about preclinic GRD lab

It’s weird not being in lab. I wrote you that our GRD class wrapped up and our endodontic module is wrapping up too (we just had our didactic exam today!). Pretty soon we won’t be in that basement laboratory.

There had been a “pothole” in my bay and we saw that it had been fixed… like this:

rad interior design

Instead of a spot where it could have been a “Drop-Whatever-Safe-Zone” facilities copied that tantalizing splattered pattern right onto the new floor.

Okay, I just had the craziest thought. What if they deliberately made it difficult to pick up things we drop on the floor to discourage us from being careless? That would make a LOT more sense than having this crazy pattern in the very lab we work with tiny things at our fingertips.

get organized

So about the title: something I loved about being in lab was listening to tons of music, podcasts and NPR. A couple of my favorites:

- Redeemer App with sermons by Tim Keller of NYC
- CBC’s Wire Tap with Jonathan Goldstein (just try not to laugh!)
- Slate’s Culture Gabfest- to catch up on all the wonderful culture gems out there… to appreciate later.

Plus I asked friends to send me artist recommendations and playlists on Spotify. The extent of my music knowledge comes from Glee so this was something fun and enjoyable I looked forward to while in lab.

This makes me wonder: how did dental students spend hours in lab when there wasn’t iPhones and mp3 players?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

15 months in braces so far

My braces are going! The big part of my finishing phase is taking care of that stubborn uncooperative molar. I shouldn’t be telling you this because I’m supposed to talk positively to that tooth, those PDL ligaments.

At the last appointment, we engaged this molar to pull it mesially towards my midline. I was in SO much pain for the first three days. I ate exclusively on the other side and when I bit down accidentally on that molar, tears came to my eyes.

But after just one week I can see the molar is moving! It’s making progress and since I spend no less than fifteen minutes each day (using our GRD red roll periodontal probe & mouth mirror) to look into my own dentition, I see it’s moving. So exciting.

We’re going to practice bonding brackets and attaching wires soon. My classmate borrowed a dentoform from an upperclassmen and the mannequin was my braces twins:


My thoughts about orthodontics as a specialty for me: I don’t know. I love immediate feedback and I like quick results. I love power-hour-ing for an intense time period where everything else fades away and at the end of it all, something wonderful comes out of it. (Yes, I love endodontics.)

I’m still young. I don’t have to make this decision until next year. Or even for a few years after that. This recent realization has given me a lot of peace.

Monday, February 17, 2014

winter blues

Can you believe we’ve had FOUR snow days so far? Compared to a total of ZERO my first year of dental school this is crazy. Not to mention that there’s been no sun for the last week. I feel like this snowman I saw on Penn campus:

paths2 (640x478)

The last three weeks have worn me out, leading up to the end of our preclinic GRD lab. Studying in the library, going over laboratory procedures, finishing up preclinic assignments…  During our unexpected snow day, I woke up gloriously late and walked around in my pajamas all day. But that still wasn’t enough because this weekend all I wanted to do was stay in bed.

Plus seeing first year dental students stressing about their anterior incisor & premolar wax-up’s has me worked up too. Because I feel for them- everything looks rosy in hindsight but in the beginning, you always lack have that perspective. Hearing my friend say she broke down in lab yesterday made me ache with all my heart.

3 week plus

I’ve also noticed that my high stress level makes me less sympathetic and less generous to others. Because in my responding to others’ distress, I recognize that I’m stressed out myself. It’s like that saying: only the rich can afford to be generous.

This weekend I kept texting my friends and asking: “Am I supposed to be studying right now?” Even when we don’t have stuff to do, I worry I’m forgetting something for dental school. I honestly think it’s the lack of sunshine getting me down and all the penguin walk on icy sidewalks, making me cautious. We need a little sunshine around here, out of the basement, soaking up the sun on full blast.

Friday, February 14, 2014

happy valentine’s day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a day of love. I’m a huge fan of the quote: “There is no love, only proofs of love”. My friend Tiffany reminds me that loving someone is not enough- you have to make them feel loved.

Here’s my Valentine’s Day present. I spent hours upon hours in lab & had a moment of agony and pain when I thought I had lost it on our speckled floor. (Later I found it in my scrubs pocket!!!) I was crawling on the floor in search of this 12-carat baby. It’s our first full metal gold crown. Prepped and invested, polished and cemented on our plastic tooth #30.

So yeah, it means a lot.


About making the person feel loved, I think the same goes for self-love. I would never treat a loved one with the way I’ve been treating myself: beat-up’s over past mistakes, sleep deprivation, popcorn for dinner, etc… My friend Jackie encouraged me to practice self-care- I love this idea. On our Thursday snow day I spent extra hours in bed and sipped on hot tea with milk. Lovely.


Today is also a big day because a classmate and I are launching a happiness initiative for Penn dental. It’s an online collaborative project. We want to include emotional well-being in our everyday conversation as dental students. Struggles, successes, challenges, high-fives, all in our community. I would love to get feedback and comments about the idea- so here it is: Max and Mandy Project.

How are you expressing love on this Valentine’s Day?
What’s your favorite way to say “I love you”- to yourself?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

first local anesthetic injection!

Today’s another snow day at Penn. It’s been snowing SO much this year! I finally had to give in and buy a puffy down jacket. Today I went outside to take out the trash and I couldn’t even see the stairs buried in snow. Meanwhile, Texas is sunny and warm as usual.

This week was a big occasion: I practiced my first local anesthetic injection. We injected each other & learned what it feels like to be injected too.


Thank you, HandiCaine stix for making injections less painful. Also, knowing that my partner Tanya was careful & calm made the experience SO much better. I hardly felt a thing! Even the injection on my palate was just a quick small pinch.

Our oral surgery resident reminded us to ASK the patient to cooperate. For example, the posterior superior alveolar block is much easier if the patient moves her jaw to that side and closes a little bit.

At Penn dental, we learn and practice for two years and begin clinic summer after second year. We’re working our way through the transitional steps to working on a REAL dental patient. Our mannequin definitely didn’t feel pain and didn’t complain when we made him do a headstand. ;)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

end of a beginning: preclinic done.

This is it. We are completely DONE with preclinic as of this week. One year in the basement learning how to make teeth prep’s and provisionals and wax-up’s and everything- completed.

manual donez

Now we move onto clinic starting with June. I’m going to be a dentist-in-training! I am going to have my own patients and I’m going to be treatment planning and all that jazz. I can’t believe it. Third and fourth years are going to be amazing. I know these years will have their own (different) challenges but I am so thankful that I made it this far.

casts models

As for Penn tradition, our class put together a toast & roast GRD skit. It is on Youtube- it’s so well made and I laughed SO SO SO much. We have such a talented class! Never have I ever had such a fun time in B60 in our dear dental school basement.

So here we are.

We got our clinic assignments, wrapped up our DAU (assisting) class, and are getting psyched up. This was a HUGE dental school milestone and I thought about how many hours I spent in that lab: Friday nights, Saturday mornings, weekday nights until midnight… And somehow we made it!

And as I am touching down on these HUGE milestones in my dental career, I remember this verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

It wasn’t me that made it here- everything in His grace.

Monday, February 3, 2014

the general dentist.

Our endodontics lab is on-going. I was so surprised that as dental students we were actually doing endo- we all have to complete five root canals including one molar. A big difference is that they are extracted teeth (and free from a patient who can feel pain) but I thought this was different from the other specialties where we only learn a subset of the specialty.


When I took an initial X-ray radiograph of a tooth I hoped to work with, my resident recommended I choose another one. “I would refer it to a resident”, he said. I didn’t see anything different but he was able to recognize that this was a tricky case that needed special attention.

I was called to this article by Dr. Ben Burris on The Hill urging general dentists to practice within their scope- let specialists do their job.

I remember our radiograph professor urging us to always seek second opinion (and document!) because what seems easy and doable may not be so. Then you might have to defend yourself in court later. It’s a matter of saving our own butt.

In the article, Dr. Burris also talks about how patients should take ownership of their treatment by asking questions about “where they went to dental school, when they graduated, and what their class rank was.” (Penn dental!!!!)

I believe in taking ownership of my own health. I don’t believe that “my doctor would have told me if this was important”. This probably makes me a difficult patient (SO MANY questions) but I’m better safe than sorry. That “one-in-50,000-statistic” matters a whole life when that one patient is me or a loved one.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oral Cancer Walk is coming…

On March 29th, Penn Dental Medicine is hosting our annual Oral Cancer Walk & 5k. Drop by & get a free screening, walk/run on our beautiful Locust Walk!

I had the chance to meet the family featured in our palm cards at last year’s Oral Cancer Walk & 5k last year. It is a great community event bringing Philadelphia & Penn community together. So much energy, so much excitement on a Saturday morning.

The dentist is the first line of defense in diagnosing oral cancer. Now that we’re taking pathology in dental school, I recognize that the pictures are actually what my patients may look like- this summer.

Sign up here! Winking smile