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Comments, please: realistic advice?

Discussion in 'Pre-Dental' started by Freddy King, Mar 28, 2002.

  1. Freddy King

    Freddy King Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Sophomore year I copied this open letter from an old listserv. What do you think about the author's advice?

    To Whom It May Concern:
    > I am a first-year dental student, and I am addressing this transmission primarily to those of you that have already been accepted to dental schools starting next fall. I imagine that most of you have been concentrating on simply being accepted. However, now it is time to begin. I must say that dental school is much like the army: everything seems just fine and great at the recruiting office and then -- whooo....that fist day of boot camp (first day of the semester) hits you like lightning. However, there are things you can do this summer which will make next year much, much easier.

    Dental school is not medical school nor is it a Ph.D program. It is primarily a technical rather than an academic degree. All that studying that you did for the DAT will be very unlike what you will do when actually in school. You must learn the lab skills. These will be far more important than book skills. Again, if interested, I will
    later give you my thoughts on how to prepare so that that first semester is not so much of a shock. I will give you one hint now. Do NOT study gross anatomy over the summer. I know that this is the largest of the first-year classes and scares many people. However, the textbooks are so huge and so detailed that no person could realistically learn them on their own. Much more important and useful would be to spend the summer becoming familair with dental anatomy.

    Academically, dental school is not very hard. Very few people (almost no one actually) has major problems with biochemistry, physiology,
    histology, etc. There is much material, but it is straight forward enough. This is true even for non-science majors. There seems to be
    a real "rise to the challenge" mentality once school starts. Even people with the lowest GPA's and DAT scores do well enough with the books. For example, my class contains several former English majors who had only enough science to meet the entrance requirement. There is also a guy with an M.A. in microbiology and a former junior college science professor. And everybody in between. Still everybody passed gross anatomy - most with grades no more than one letter apart.

    Therefore, I would not use the summer to prepare for "book work." This is especially true for gross anatomy. I don't know why anyone would do that anyway. Shouldn't you be golfing or something? (Or working?) It would take months just to learn one chapter. But not to worry the professors will shorten it to a manageable amount. As an aside -- do not worry about the
    cadaver. When I was walking to the gross lab for the first time, my egs almost gave out from the fear of it. Truly, I felt light in the head. But within a week, it will be no problem -- easy as cake to do things that a few weeks ago would have made you pass out.

    So if the books are not much of a problem, the lab classes are. These laboratory courses probably make up the biggest difference between
    medical and dental school. I have some intimate knowledge of this as my ex-wife was a medical student. (We were married a month before her school started and divorced a year before her residency ended -- but that is another story.) The first two years of medical school are
    made up of books and tests, books and tests, books ..... and so on. I do not remember her having many lab classes at all, besides gross, of
    course. In dental school, however, the labs are the main thing. As the semesters go on they start becoming more and more significant in
    both complexity and time. This can be good and bad. Good in that they are essentially mindless and thus provide relief from studying. Bad in that the work will be graded with almost unbelievable strictness. I was once told to move a wax cone over two hair widths. And this was not meant to be funny! Of course not. Imagine if that had been a patient's mouth. 2 hair widths
    can mean the difference between a good filling and an extra contact point, which could need a root canal down the road.

    Here is the other main difference between medical and dental schools -- the failure rate. When my ex was in school, only two people failed, and they did not really fail, but simply got fed up and left. In dental school, if a person fails a
    laboratory class, they will have to repeat the entire year -- everything, not just the failed lab class. What is worse is that this really happens. what is more, it happens to very bright people. Frankly, waxing model teeth and cutting preps is a skill; intelligence just is not a big part of it. I doubt that Einstein could do a Class III amalgam prep. And I doubt you could have come up with the theory of relativity.

    Therefore, when school starts, make the labs your
    primary concern. I stated class with people who were repeating the first year, and I remember thinking that they must really be stupid or
    lazy. Not true. They just messed up a few lab practical tests. Too often people dismiss the labs as less important or think that it will
    be a natural ability or that the technology will be so advanced as to replace the "art" of it. Don't believe it. Practice, practice, practice. Of course, you may be one of the naturally gifted. In which case, dental school will be a breeze.

    Here are so more general hints -- for what they are worth: everybody has a different opinion. These are only mine. * You will not have to do everything the teachers tell you to do. What? Don't always do everything you're told? Are you mad? Often reading assignments can be ignored or lab procedures practiced only a few times (If you are good at it.). If you did every thing you
    were told to do, well there would not be time enough in the day. Trust your abilities. Also, ask second years students what textbooks you really need. I spent over one thousand dollars on books I never even opened.

    If you have a choice between a less expensive state school and a prestigious private one -- go for the "cheap" one. I hate to get practical here, but you will;l need all the money you can get. I spent on average thirty dollars a week on extra lab supplies -- an expense they do not talk about in the catalogs. I knew one guy who spent $100 just on a single weekly lab project. Also, you do not want to finish school with a huge debt. Terrible.

    * Do not compete with other students. Unless you want to be an orthodontist, grades or class rankings no longer matter in the longrun -- not like they did in college. Therefore, help each other. I've been saved many times by others.

    * Get used to the feeling that you are no longer the smartest person in class. Here the dumbest person is extraordinarily bright. At first this is a bit of a shock. But it rapidly becomes one of the best things about being in school. You really feel as if you are a part of something meaningful and important. You start to hunger to be around such sharp people.

    Just let me finish with a few tips on what to do this summer. As I have said before, buy a copy of Fuller and Denehy's "Concise Dental Anatomy and Morphology". You should be able to get through it by yourself over the summer. If so, you will have much more free time in the fall and also you will be able to nderstand laboratory
    assignments with greater ease. This is a terrifically boring book, but its contents are invaluable. You will learn every bump and groove
    on every tooth. Plus you will get to say things like "the mesial secondary groove of the mesial-buccal cusp of number 3", and actually know what it means.

    * Go to the school and find out if they make wax models by the carving or addition waxing technique. They will know what you are talking about. You should be able to buy dental wax and waxing instruments for less than $50. Ask a freshman to lone you their morphology and occlusion lab manuals for the summer. Then practice "waxing" the teeth at home. They will look like hell, and there will be no way for you to get feedback. But when school starts, at least you will have a feel for it. This thing called "waxing" is without a doubt the most hated thing in dental school -- with the possible exception of the professors who teach waxing.

    * Buy a copy of Rohen and Yokochi's "Color Atlas of Anatomy" (ISBN # 0-683-30492-5) -- about $70 and a computer anatomy program called "A.D.A.M." -- about $120. You will not need them this summer, but they are a great help in gross anatomy lab. In fact, I have know several people who found these two aids more important for passing gross anatomy than actually doing the dissection.
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  3. one engineer

    one engineer Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 12, 2001
    Well, if no one else will thank you...
    Nice letter. Thanks for sharing it.
  4. Yah-E

    Yah-E Toof Sniper 10+ Year Member

    I think it's very true! Manual dexterity will make and break people once we hit the labs! Cool post! <img border="0" alt="[Clappy]" title="" src="graemlins/clappy.gif" />
  5. MsPurtell

    MsPurtell Guest

    Jun 14, 2001
    Sounds like good advice to me! :)
  6. dmd1272

    dmd1272 Member 7+ Year Member

    Feb 28, 2002
    amazing post...real cool!!!
  7. mini tooth

    mini tooth Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Mar 25, 2002
    los angeles, CA
    I completely agree with Freddy King. I am a fist yr at UCLA and so far the science courses are not a problem, even anatomy and histology. I have no background in anatomy and got over 90% (but not enough to get honors). Dont' waste your summer studying anatomy bc you don't know how much detail to go over by yourself. For example, we only did the upper body and head. We didn't have to learn below the pubic area so it'd be a waste if you actually tried to learn <img border="0" alt="[Pity]" title="" src="graemlins/pity.gif" /> all that yourself during summer. The lab itself is not as bad as you think. Yeah it smells really really really bad but after gagging a few times after walking in, you'll be fine.... the worse thing is going home smelling like formaldehyde! For the first half of the course we were doing the upper body so the head was covered with a cloth. But then we had to start on the head so that was a bit nerve wrecking... we had to squint our eyes and take a couple of peaks before really being able to "look" at her face.
    Anyways, the laboratory classes are fun! Yes, it takes time to get used to using the high speed handpieces. It's very easy to slip by accident and hit the adjacent tooth (automatic fail)... I guess you can't really practice that during summer unless you borrow someone's instruments. I don't think there is much you can do to prepare for the lab courses. I know that UCLA offers waxing and making dentures course sometime in April or summer. That would definitely help you get a feel of what lab courses are about. You can also take it to see if dentistry is really what you want to do. I took the dentures course before applying to dental school and did pretty good. The instructor writes recommendation letters for those who do well on that dentures course so it'll be good to use when applying for schools. You can also put that on your apps to let the schools know that you have the skills needed for dentistry. If you're interested in taking those courses you can check out the UCLA website <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and look for continuing education courses.
    Good luck
  8. Bruin2k

    Bruin2k Member 7+ Year Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    San Francisco, CA
    Good stuff....thanks for sharing this with us Freddy King!

  9. gryffindor

    gryffindor Dentist 10+ Year Member

    Feb 2, 2002
    As a second year at Buffalo, I agree with not studying Gross Anatomy over the summer, you really could end up doing way more work than your course demands. In the end, all that matters in Gross is passing your course and then learning enough to pass it on the Boards.

    It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to read a dental anatomy book. At least everything in a dental anatomy text will be mentioned in dental school at some point, so it doesn't hurt to start to familiarize yourself with the numbers and terms. First semester, it took me a while to figure out that labial and facial and buccal all refer to the same surface of a tooth. I was also shocked at all the anatomy there is to learn on a tooth (location of cusps, bulges, grooves, directions, this could go on for pages...)

    I don't agree with trying to practice waxing teeth. You will have no idea if you are doing it correctly or not so there is no point in repeatedly waxing up teeth with what might be a bad technique. Once you do them enough, you get the hang of it. I enjoy waxing teeth, there is a lot of control involved in the procedure and you can correct your mistakes easily (unlike cutting a tooth - once you cut, there is no turning back). Many of us bring waxing assignments home and do them in front of the TV, that is how little brain involvement there is in wax ups (you bring a little alcohol torch with you for a flame).

    Lab classes are STRICT!!! I must agree there. They are cool because there isn't much studying involved with them, but are very frustrating at the same time. Definitely labs are what makes the difference between my med school colleagues and me. Also, they never understand exactly what is involved in a graded lab class with practicals since the only lab they take is Gross in freshman year, where dissections weren't graded anyways.

    I definitely agree with the "cheap" state school and failure comment. It is very hard to make up classes here without having to repeat the whole year.
  10. horns2001

    horns2001 Junior Member

    Jun 22, 2001
    Hey Minitooth,

    Thank you for the info regarding the UCLA dentures pre-dental laboratory class. I just signed up for the one coming up in April 6,7, and 13th. I hear its really helpful and I hope to learn alot. I'm applying this year so hopefully I'll get a good rec. letter and bonus on my application under dental skills. When I called today they said there was only one or 2 spots left for these dates otherwise u have to wait until October, so I was really lucky. I graduated from UCLA last year(undergrad) and never knew about this program. Thanks again for the info..Out
  11. hazelmei

    hazelmei Member 7+ Year Member

    Dec 27, 2001
    San Francisco, CA
    yes.. thank you for the VERY informational letter.. =)
  12. Lin709

    Lin709 Member 7+ Year Member

    Nov 15, 2001
    yeah, thanks for all the advice... it'll really come in handy this summer and next year when we're more in dental school mode :)

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