It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
I blinked and…
1/8th of my training as a dentist was totally (thankfully) complete.
Walking into dental school, I had absolutely no idea what was waiting for me, and after finishing a semester of endless studying, assignments, quizzes, exams, and buffalo wax (oh so much buffalo wax!) I have lived to tell the tale of it.
First semester of D1 is little fun, and zero games. Not that it’s miserable, it’s just heavily laden with science courses and classroom time that sometime seems to never end. You’re around the same people day in and day out, five days a week, 8 hours a day, often meeting back up in the evening to study yet again at the school you just cant seem to get enough of.
It sounds redundant, but man, I am actually so (very) grateful. I really lucked out with where I sit, and the students around me are pretty amazing. I also may be forced to sit and listen to hour after hour of lecture, but this is the first time in my educational career where I am not only being taught by experts in their field’s, but they genuinely care if I do or do not understand their material. Lab time allows me to channel my inner creative, and when 8 hours of carving wax flies by, it makes me feel like I’m actually where I’m meant to be, (more on wax in a moment.)
So what did I learn, you ask?
Gross Anatomy taught me how to navigate Notability at jet propulsion speed, and to never tune out a single word whilst doing so. It taught me the greatest party trick, regurgitating the Brachial Plexus, and I can now show you where your anatomic snuff box is.
All else aside, anatomy was one of my favorite (love/hate) classes of this semester. The lectures came at you full force, but understanding the nitty gritty details of what makes our bodies work is enticing. We received cadavers, and have been very blessed to perform our own dissections. Not many students are afforded this opportunity, and I secretly wish my donor could know how thankful I am to be able to learn from their ultimate gift. I just thank them silently in my head during the 6 hours we spend working on them every week.
Histology was a literal whirlwind. I’ve had plenty of elementary introductions to histology during previous classes, but never this in depth. What’s more, my school just transferred all of their slides to a digital format, thus in stead of spending hours every week staring down the microscope, we can study tissue sections from the comfort of our home. Its pretty amazing how technology has advanced, and it seems luxurious to be able to learn this way.
Physiology was sort of fun, mainly a lot of beer and urine jokes and also that one exam that covered 600 pages of material, which wasn’t that fun. But we lived.
In dental materials we took impressions on typodonts, then on each other (seriously interesting) especially since a vast majority of my class had never taken an impression on another human until that day. Luckily I paired up with another gal who had assisting experience and we flew out as fast as we could. Rumor has it we demolished 400 bags of single use alginate in a single setting, and, not a rumor, the D2 class hates us for making a mess in lab (one time, so mad.) We made our first wax occlusal rims (first step to dentures). Then, created acrylic rectangles that made some students cry in frustration, only to have the acrylic intentionally broken, then we repaired it. I don’t think I ever want to see that acrylic slab again.
On a couple of occasions, we had to file away tooth anatomy on a model, then recreated it by dripping excess of wax on the area and carving out the original anatomy. But the grand daddy of them all – On the very last day of the very last week, we finally touched a tooth. Yep we did. We carved a fissureotomy on a posterior occlusal surface (basically drilling the largest grooves on the chewing surface of one of your molars, with a thin bur), then filled the fissureotomy with composite or amalgam, and boy did that headpiece feel nice in my hand.
In dental anatomy I carved (and carved, and carved) blue buffalo wax for hours. I still find buffalo wax shavings in my car, inside my phone case, in my hair, on my shoes, inside the crook of my glasses, laterally everywhere blue buffalo wax should not be. The only time I got a break from Mondays with buffalo wax, were the Mondays we had surprise practicals and instead got an itty-bitty block of beeswax to carve a tooth at anatomical size. Each Monday we would lecture for an hour then head into the lab where the entirety of the rest of the day would be spent carving, shaving, melting, and adding back on buffalo wax to create a tooth of instructors choice until it looked perfect and was within ½ a millimeter of our given measurements. Aside from improving my hand skills (seriously painting my nails is a breeze now) it also taught me a lot of patience, and allowed me to listen to a lot of good podcasts while I worked.
I completed and presented a group research project on Burning Mouth Syndrome, and it was the first group project of my life that wasn’t awful, and actually somewhat enjoyable. At one point in the semester we practiced placing sealants on cadaver teeth, and we jumped in the clinic for a day to practice placing fluoride varnish on each other. We “forest bathed” (yes it’s a real thing) as a class, and partook in a mindfulness and wellbeing course that allowed us to do yoga and have shavasana once a week in an adorably Zen classroom. I took over 40 exams, practicals, and quizzes, threw a girls night, joined a club for women in dentistry, spent time with my husband, and really did survive 49 credits and my first semester of Dental school.
I’m no dentist, and so far I know very little about actual dentistry, but I’m farther ahead than I was 6 months ago and that in itself makes me pretty proud. Now, another semester with even greater course load is upon us, and many more beyond that, but if it gets me another step closer to being a dentist I’ll do whatever it takes.
Until next time,
Follow along on my journey by clicking the link at the bottom of this page. Contact me with comments, questions, and future topics – always answered anonymously! Happy to have you!