Life of a Dental Student: First Year

Campus

Tell us about your UCSF experience so far.

Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience at UCSF so far. I have found inspiring mentors and role models to guide me in becoming the welcoming, thorough, passionate dentist I want to become. I loved anatomy lab and simulation lab because I love working with my hands and seeing my skills develop.  The hardest part of my first quarter was actually homesickness because I’m a crybaby!

How did you decide to go to dental school?

At 18, I thought I knew what the next 10 years were going to look like.  Then, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I was suddenly considering delaying college to work, but my parents would not let the disease dictate our lives. In college, I tried medicine, teaching various subjects, industry, and was almost fully committed to pursuing a Ph.D. at one point, but I could never envision doing it for the rest of my life.

Then, I tried dentistry. Everything clicked. I wanted to do something innovative to protect health in the whole person while also being academically stimulated, working with my hands, and providing individualized care. For me, dentistry was the perfect combination of art, science and people, and I am lucky to be pursuing my passion.

Is it different from what you originally expected? If so, how?

One of the great things about the dentists that contributed to my decision to pursue dentistry is that they were dedicated to my success, so they weren’t shy about telling me all the good, the bad and the ugly to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I had heard all the horror stories, and I also had very close friends in dental school, so I was prepared. The only thing that really amazes me every day is the wonderful people in my class.

What do you wish someone had told you in the beginning?

Collect more carious [decayed] teeth. We collect natural teeth that have been extracted at dental offices for various exercises in simulation lab. A lot of these exercises seem to require carious teeth, and my teeth are all clean. You also can’t fly with these teeth because they are human body parts, so plan ahead!

What advice would you give to other students?

Prepare all your lab sessions in advance. I would definitely sacrifice a little sleep to prepare for labs. You will be more efficient (so it’s a time saver in the end), you will more likely remember what you dissected and performed in the long term, and you can help others.

Looking forward, what excites you the most?

Injections on my friends next year! Just kidding, that’s terrifying. I’m most looking forward to my last two years of clinic when I can help operate on patients for the dental school. Everything now is building toward that work, so I can’t wait to see these efforts come to fruition.

Student 2
First Year, Female

Tell us about your UCSF experience so far.

I love the school and the city. I love how I can see the Golden Gate Bridge every morning when I walk to school, even when it is foggy. I love watching the sun setting from the fourth floor of dental clinic. I really enjoyed my classes this past quarter, especially anatomy. The material is difficult, no doubt. … But I am grateful for every day I get to spend here.

How did you decide to go to dental school?

I decided to go into dentistry during a dental implant surgery in my freshman year of college. I had numerous cavities and root canals treated before then, but I never felt a sense of urgency to care for my teeth. During the implant procedure, as the surgeon began drilling into my jaw, that was when I finally came to my senses—I need to start taking care of my oral health seriously. And what better way is than going to dental school to become a dentist?

Is it different from what you originally expected? If so, how?

The only thing would be dental school is harder than I expected. There is a lot to learn and everything is equally important, so time management can easily become an issue. 

What do you wish someone had told you in the beginning?

I wish someone told me that it’s OK to not get something on the first few tries. We are [learning] pretty darn hard, tedious procedures—so we should not expect ourselves to do it perfectly on the first, second or, sometimes, even the third try. We should not feel bummed when we mess up, because how else are we supposed to learn, if not through trying and failing and trying again?

It is as much about the process as the outcome—so, take our time and as many tries to get the technique down, because in no time, we will be performing these procedures on real patients, and we will not want to depend on pure luck to get the procedure right.

What advice would you give to other students?

Learn to be happy for your classmates. Learn to be happy for their accomplishments. Try not to think of it as a competition. We are all in dental school because we want to be able to provide dental care to those in need. If that is our common goal, and if our classmates can provide better care for them, then we should be happy for and supportive of them, and vice versa. In the end, we will all get a DDS degree.

Amidst the crazy amount of readings and exams, do not lose sight of your ultimate goal – to become a health care provider and to be happy.

Looking forward, what excites you the most?

I want to make the most of my time here. San Francisco is a beautiful city!