May 3, 2012
Hi, I'm probably not supposed to be here but Google took me here.

I'm currently a patient at a dental school. Have been there 6 or 7 times in the past month or so. My mouth is pretty much a hot mess, though my front tooth shape is good, it was covered in "facial lesions" I think they called it.

I ended up getting three evaluations before I had any work started, which was hugely frustrating as my transportation has to take off work to take me there and it's a distance away. But I ended up getting hooked up with an amazing student dentist who has performed magic on my teeth. I can smile with confidence again. I still have much work to be done especially on my molars but it's seriously amazing what he's already done with how little time they give him to do it. I'll see him again twice next week, and after that, whenever we can set up appointments after I return to school.

So, what's the protocol on gift-giving from your patients at your school? Are you allowed to accept? Should I be discreet about it in front of the doctor professors? I'm obviously not loaded so it would just be something small.

Also, anyone know if I can tell one of the professors that I don't want something that isn't in my treatment plan that my student dentist made? Having a really hard time sitting in the chair, agreeing with everything my student dentist suggests only to have a professor come over and tell him there's a new cavity that he missed and he needs to work on that immediately, which means that SD and I don't have enough time to do what we had planned for that visit. Since I've been going so often, there's a new doctor in the clinic every day. They don't know my history, situation and what I want like my SD does. Honestly, 9 out of 12 of the doctors that have come over have found some new microscopic cavity that the doctor just before lunch said wasn't anything to worry about. I hate it. I wish my SD could have more authority. I don't know how you guys put up with them. There have only been 3 so far that have been nice and curious enough to ask about my history and situation.


Extremely Full of It
7+ Year Member
Aug 2, 2010
Sounds like you've already given him multiple gifts in the form of requirements he has been able to check off by helping you with your smile.

If I were your student doctor, I would be happy with just a sincere, "Thank you so much for making me comfortable with my smile again."

I cant wait to work on and hear that from a patient.
Oct 3, 2010
St. Peter, Minnesota
Dental Student
If you want to give them a gift I'd just do it discretely and not in the clinic. I know a patient at our school made a girl a wooden coat rack as a thank you and it wasn't frowned upon. As for the treatment, you do have a choice. If you don't want to get a small cavity filled you can say so to the dentist there.


Smoking Monkey
7+ Year Member
Apr 15, 2011
Cincinnati, OH
Resident [Any Field]
I think the best you can do is to just write him a sincere thank you card. That will be both cheap and an effective way to show your appreciation.

On a side note, it is always a very refreshing thing when someone is thankful for someone like this; I hope to have a patient like you when I'm in d-school! :thumbup:


Senior Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jun 4, 2006

For a gift, generally speaking something that does not have lasting value is acceptable at a school. For example, a thank you card or food is always perfectly fine because food doesn't last and a thank you card, once you've written in it, isn't really something that has value other than the sentiment. However, it's unlikely he'd be able to take, and in many cases he'd probably feel uncomfortable with, a monetary gift or a gift card.

I used to have a patient in dental school who came almost every appointment with a piece of cake from the corner market. I also got a pie one time that I shared with my friends in the lab that night. A good friend of mine worked on an 85 year old Japanese woman who almost always brought her a homemade bento box of sushi and rice.

As for the other part of your question, this is the usual at most dental schools. Professors will see things that students might miss and that other professors will too. It's human beings with different skills and eyes, and knowledge. And, most dentists have a tendency to be super confident, so if they see something they think needs doing, they will tell the student that. However, you should never forget that as a patient, you exert the final control in all situations. No one has a right to tell you what must be done to your body without your consent. So, if you come into the school one day and the plan is to do two fillings on two of your front teeth with cavities because you don't like the way these teeth look and the instructor comes by and says, That molar looks in bad shape, why don't we fix that one first, do not be afraid to stop the professor and say, kindly, "Is it possible that I can wait on treating that tooth until my next visit in a month. I understand that it looks bad, but I really was hoping to have my front teeth fixed today. Does it look so bad that it cannot wait a month, cause if it looks like something real bad might happen, I will do it, but if it can wait one more month, I'd appreciate doing what we had planned today."

Unless the situation is really that dire, or the doctor is really that brash, they should be willing to listen to the patient's concern. The problem is that dentist in schools get so used to dealing with the students and focused on instructing them, sometimes they forget to talk to the patient if the patient doesn't speak up to voice an opinion. Your student would love it too, because they took all that time getting ready to do one type of procedure and get all the tools for it and if the instructor changes the plan for the day, guess who has to suddenly go and get different equipment sometimes, which cuts into his time to treat you.

Hope that helps.


10+ Year Member
Jun 6, 2008
Resident [Any Field]
Gift giving is not a problem, faculty smile when they see it.

But really, I'm a student dentist and all I want from my patients is for them to come on time and be happy to be there. Sometimes that is too much to ask, but atleast don't [email protected]#$$ in the dental chair when I'm trying to help your disease-riden mouth. The worst are the patients who haven't been to the dentist in a decade, and think their teeth were okay, and find out they need 6 cavities filled. And it takes about 1 visit for each cavity, if they are large. 12 hours of the patient's time for problems they never had before they came to the dentist. Understandable, but I try very hard to educate them, still they are not appreciative. Appreciation is a gift in itself. Sounds like you are appreciative, so I wouldn't say a gift is necessary.

I'm curious what this student dentist was able to do for you.

Also, yes different dentists have different opinions on lesions. Caries are unpredictable. I saw a 14 y.o. the other day and he had no cavities except one 14 that blew up and had a pinpoint exposure while we were excavating the day. He was young, and that tooth was asymptomatic so it ended up being a vital pulpal therapy (referred to endo), but really you wouldn't expect such a cavity when no other tooth had even a stained pit - it was so wierd. Some dentists would probably say do a root canal on that tooth, and forget the vital pulp therapy. We won't know who is correct. It'll take a year to figure out if the vital pulp therapy worked. There are definitely different opinions in dentistry.


Staff member
Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Dec 11, 2004
Gifts are perfectly acceptable as long as they don't cross the lines of a professional provider/patient relationship. Gift cards, gift baskets, food are all perfectly acceptable. Asking your dentist out for dinner or on a date may not be. But as a dental student, any thanks or gifts of appreciation are always welcomed. :)

We are not allowed to comment on the specifics of your treatment plans as giving medical advice on SDN is not permitted. But, always feel free to question anything that appears on your treatment plan. You need to make sure you are happy with what you are getting and that you want to get it rather than feel like you are forced to get it.
Oct 12, 2009
Resident [Any Field]
I always preferred gift cards to Ruth's Chris or envelopes of cash. Those can be given very discretely. Blank checks were acceptable as well.
Feb 12, 2012
As a new junior, I would often miss a lesion that my faculty member would find while verifying my findings. At least a few times another lesion would be found by a second faculty member at a later appointment. In every case, it was caries that needed to be excavated and a good thing that someone found the lesions while they were still manageable.

It's unfortunate for you and your student that so many different faculty members cover him when you are there. At my old dental school, as a junior I would work with one faculty member for all fillings and then a second faculty member for treatment remaining after fillings. As a senior, we mostly had one faculty member covering us and it was good for the patients as they would form a relationship and a level of trust with both the student and the faculty member.

Quattro DMD

10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
May 20, 2008
Dallas, TX
Resident [Any Field]
Adjunct faculty come in and out of our clinic. One of the things I noticed is that some dentists are more conservative than others. I see old restorations with deficient margins, staining, etc, and the dentist on the floor just wants to "watch" it. With that being said if the dentist clearly says "that needs to be restored" I would assume that it was warranted.


10+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2005
Phila, PA
When I was a student I fixed did a same day denture repair on a really sweet lady. She brought me a 5-lb pound cake the morning before NERBs. I had mentioned that I was nervous and she wanted me to have "good food for my test." That meant so much to me and it was nice to be able to share it with my classmates.

I also had a few patients write me cards and letters. I saved them all and I think it's a really nice reminder for your student that you appreciate their time.

Other then that, I think your student's instructor might be right about some of the cavities that you have. I know my diagnosis criteria has gotten a lot better since I've been in school and I missed a fair bit of decay when I was starting out. That's why your student is in school.