Monday, September 29, 2014

just like real life

This is my quick study break! We have a Pediatric Dentistry midterm tomorrow morning (8AM, bright and early of course) and I've been studying all evening. 

During our third year, we rotate through the different specialty clinics at Penn. It's a great way for us to gain insight into different specialties & to get to know the residents. As I'm slowly making up my mind to go into general practice, I'm paying more attention to those special cases... the ones you definitely want treated by a specialist.

One of the things we have to do is practice root canal therapy on extracted teeth. We schedule individual slots to go in and practice the entire procedure from start to finish. Couple of weeks ago, I went in for my session to practice on my extracted tooth. I had filed the canal, I had obturated (putting these rubber gutta percha cones inside), and I took the X-ray.

You want the entire canal radio opaque, which means the entire canal has been filled with CaOH and gutta percha. My radiograph showed my tooth had multiple voids. So... like a grudgey bear, I pulled out the entire thing and started over. Look- I even took a picture so I could send it to friends accompanied by a :-(

And then this past week, I was assisting an endo resident. The initial radiograph hinted at a tricky case. The roots were twisty dancing all over in that bone. Same thing- after a solid 30 minutes of filing, the resident filled the tooth with gutta percha + CaOH and took the radiograph... which showed a little tiny void.

He went back and pulled it out, got back to work. He simply said, "I'm not happy with this and I can do a better job." No whining, no pouty face. He just went back at it.

More so than anything, I want to learn the right attitude as a clinician. While in dental school, I get to learn on someone else's dime! Whatever I do has no financial impact on me, as long as I'm a student. The mindset I develop in dental school will follow me throughout my lifetime and I want to get started on the right foot. I know my hand skills will continue improving (and get faster please) but starting off with the right attitude, is so important. I don't want to get sloppy and lazy and greedy. I don't want to think my time is more valuable than my patient's.

Last week, I gave a tour to pre-dental students interviewing at Penn Dental. Someone asked me what my least favorite thing was, then of course what my favorite thing was. The latter question was easy: the people who make this school wonderful. I'm surrounded by wonderfully inspired people who want to do the right thing, who are in this for the right reasons. My colleagues are ambitious, driven, and kind. And seeing this resident simply go back to re-do this entire thing... I was able to reflect on my own hastiness the week before. 

And as a kind of a natural corollary, our group leader Dr. N said this last week: "don't surround yourself with ding-a-lings."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


It's been crickets chirping here- so hello! I've admitted to friends on multiple occasions this month: "I am doing too much stuff and at the same time, not enough." Being in clinic wears me out in a way classes didn't. (Or am I just getting older?) After a full day of seeing patients, all I want to do is PLOP on my bed facedown under a mountain of comforters.

Today I was looking at my points (for every procedure you do, you get awarded a point value associated with that treatment. You need a certain number of each procedures such as a crown, an amalgam restoration etc, but the most important thing is total number of points). I realized I was wayyy below average for our group. It made me feel very anxious, like I wasn't pulling my weight. Also over lunch with an old friend I realized I need to start thinking about the life after dental school. Residencies? Private practice? Where do I want to go? What do I want and how will I get there? To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. And some other things have happened in the last week which required much attention and headache... 

We only want to show our best selves to the world, don't we? Although writing posts like these make me nervous (hello Internet universe, here's my personal letter) writing calms me down. I also believe that putting up a face only makes me feel more disconnected. So that's all, sometimes you need to eat an entire bar of chocolate and spend too much money on bath bombs...

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?