D2 Fall Semester Recap!

Lessons learned during Fall of D2:

Set up early

There is balance in setting up the lab bench early: classmates will steal your supplies, but you will not be trampled at your bottom locker during the pre-lab stampede. I like not being trampled. It never helps with my anxiety. But on the off chance the thief is reading this – Gina and Dawn hand out instruments for free if you lose yours. Rip to far too many explorers and mouth mirrors.


Drop the Dry clean

Stop buying dry-clean only pants. Just stop. Even though Banana Sloan has the best fit ever, wet lab is just not the life for those Sloan pants.


Snack empowerment

Snacks are your friend. Start putting snacks in your locker, drawers, purse, anything just start doing that. A hangry friend is not a happy friend and somewhere in the past few years I’ve developed hanger. Maybe I should also keep them on the off chance of needing to hand out snacks to students nearby having mental breakdowns over crown wax ups, I get you girl. 


Notecards and no regrets

You can never have too many notecards (Unruled – fits more information) or pens (Pilot G2 0.38, bc no smears and more information to cram into my brain, and notecard ocd thank you dental school.)


The water-aholic mentality

Lastly, water. Drink more freaking water. Last year over fall break I started the gallon challenge – drinking a gallon a day. I swear to the lord my hair has grown like crazy, my skin is clearer, and weirdly enough, I feel like I even sleep better. I would say I’ve gone a year without being sick, but my nieces just handed me the flu for christmas…or maybe it was a questionable mexican restaurant, but even when the illness party went down in class all semester I stayed healthy. Water is your friend. If you read this and prove to me you’re in on the gallon challenge with me, tell me and I’ll reward you!


Im done blabbering – now, D2:

So, prior to fall semester as you may have read, we had a 3 week break in May (which was non-stop for me) then a 5 week summer class session in which I left early from finals to attend boot camp in Oklahoma, immediately followed by fall classes. Going into the fall semester I definitely feared for my headspace and stress level. I like to go, and see, and do, but at that time I did just need a break to just slow down if D2 was going to be anything like D1. Honestly though, it faired well. 

D2 has been a challenge, in fairness, but for me it was nothing comparable to D1. I felt like a trend began to form in the first few weeks, that those who did extremely well in D1 classes began to struggle in D2’s mostly-lab curriculum, and then vice versa. Not to leave out the outliers that say they’re doing well in everything at all times, in which, you go Glen Coco! 

I personally do not do well sitting and furiously scribbling notes all day every day, it’s not my cup of tea. So this semester was a breath of fresh air to hop from short classes to long labs nearly every day. It made the days go by quicker being busy with my hands, and even the two longer classroom days were bearable and overcome with a good latte.

What helped me the most, and almost happened by accident, is that I did establish a good routine early on and forced myself to stick to it. I started getting up early to beat the traffic to school, after getting into an accident on the interstate during rush hour in the first few weeks of class.

This forced me to be at the school early, get lab set up early so I wouldn’t worry about the stampede and chaos of setting up while being told what to do and grab, or get screamed at for doing and grabbing too early. It gave me time to download powerpoints and actually prepare for the day’s lectures beforehand, and grab a coffee if needed before the professors arrived. 

In the early months I joined a gym that had classes at 5:30pm, which I committed to going to every day. If I could be extremely efficient with my time in the lab, I could make it out the door in time – thus, I began studying lab assignments early and mentally going over the steps before the professors lectured on them, if it was possible to do for that class. If not, I took thorough notes while being lectured,  then had notes in front of me at all times during lab. Later when lab required more time, I joined a different gyn and started training with a friend later at night, but the lab habits made life easier and I stuck to them. 

Lastly my study routine was stronger than in past semesters, and was a saving grace to face the waves of exams. In past semesters there were months on end of an exam or two every week. This semester, while there was no shortage of exams, there were weeks where we didn’t have anything and could prepare early as needed, then weeks where there were many assignments, quizzes, exams and practicals piled high, but it came at you all at once. Call me crazy but I preferred the latter, mostly because I felt I had time to breath in between, and it gave me time to prepare for exams early.  I still stuck to creating notecards, and reading them while I (stationary) biked, but I also added in a drawing book and a whiteboard before some exams to sketch out pathology cases or brain-dump information. Another strategy I began to employ was to look at a notecard, and write down everything I could think of about the subject rather than just say it, before flipping it over. I often could write down more than was on the notecard which I might have just waved off otherwise. I found it very helpful. 

I also took off either friday nights or saturday mornings every week. The one exception to this rule may have been finals, but I refused to deny myself this break. There is no honest need to be in constant inner turmoil with school by denying yourself a break every week. It’s a few hours that I never feel guilty about taking for myself and my sanity. I honestly do much better with a break to look forward to, than I would if unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel. 


So I guess the semester went well,  academically. I felt better about my grades than the semesters prior, but I’m also not out there trying to be the top student. I’m not in dental school to consume every tiny detail that could possibly be on an exam, just to get that A and purge the information in room for another subject. Sorry, but that  was undergrad and miserable. I’m here solely to learn pertinent information and commit it to memory, above all else. My grades are fine, I am at no risk in losing my scholarships, and I don’t feel like I’ve walked out of this past semester unable to remember any content because it wasn’t a constant cram session for me. 

In general, i take my classes  personally. I’m here to learn, and remind  myself that the content we are learning WILL be useful in the  future…this isn’t algebra. I often quiz myself and picture a patient asking me about a disease, or procedure, and feel it helps me remember the content when it becomes more real (because, hey, idk if you know it but it will be real in a few months.) Soap box complete. 

However, as cutsie cute the surface level information on my academic experience may seem, this semester was also personally extremely rough for me. Sans details, I struggled. It was very, very hard for me and I felt very, very alone in it from all aspects quite often. The harder it got, the farther away my friends moved  and then again I as well, and by the end I was just shelled up and ready for a break. I’ve learned a lot about my health, friendships, relationships, and coping over the past few months. This next semester, and upcoming year may also be difficult, and maybe worth sharing at a future time, but I feel it will be uphill and I’m grateful. 


Now, for the goods. 


34 exams, 40 quizzes, 18 practicals, 68 credit hours. Blueline wont let me back in to count the assignments, which I’m slightly thankful for, but you get the jist. 


The first two carried over from summer, the last on the list will continue into spring, otherwise – 

The classes:


Infectious disease control

Dental assisting

Oral Diagnosis

Axium training

Intro to recall clinic

General Pathology

Radiology lecture and lab

Endodontics/Pulp biology

Operative Dentistry lecture and lab


Physical Growth and Development

Scaling and Polishing


Fixed Prosthodontics lecture and lab

Implant Fundamentals lecture and lab

Removable Partial Dentures lecture and lab

Complete Denture Prosthodontics lecture and lab



Ethics was just that, ethics in the practice of dentistry. Although it didn’t involve as heated debates as some of my prior career Medical Ethics classes, it was still interesting enough. Common dental ethics topics correlating with medicine often involve money theft from providers, providers or staff struggling with substance abuse and how to manage the issue, also providers supplying their own substance abuse issues. It was a noteworthy class, I certainly wish could be more thorough and extended, but in honestly the debate of ethics never ends. One of the most interesting aspects gained from this course was finding out that there are scholarly articles written on ethical dilemmas in dentistry, with the goal of helping other dentists make decisions in similar situations. You can visit dentalethics.com and find them under Resources, if you are interested. 


Infectious disease control:

This was also rather self explanatory, and only amplified my germaphobe tendencies, second to Microbiology. People, clean under your nails when you wash your hands, please.  Also, don’t be a gross weirdo, wear safety goggles, cover your nose with your mask and change it between patients…please and thank you.


Dental assisting:

Every Friday afternoon we had rotating assignments, whether it be radiology lab, dental assisting with our D4, assisting each other with cleanings, or completing Axium training…it was “goodbye” to the friday afternoons off of D1 bliss. Here to focus on assisting, I would say it was a great experience. I was able to work with my D4, Nick, more often this semester. We took a lot of operative cases and it was helpful to take his methods upstairs to practice during operative lab. When not with Nick, I assisted another HPSP friend, Shane. Between the two, and my constant questions, I’ve gained an ample amount of information regarding patient handling in the clinic that will certainly turn out to be handy in the coming months…countdown to May and a full patient schedule. 


Oral diagnosis:

This course was taught by one of my now favorite professors in the clinic. Essentially walking through the steps of completing and becoming proficient in head and neck exams that will be utilized daily in the clinic. We began to discuss identifying pathologies intra and extraoral, as well as on radiographs, and began working on charting to ready ourselves for these exams in clinic. 



Self explanatory again, Axium is our charting system. I’m still forever grateful for charting in dentistry. In comparison to charting systems used in nursing, even the most complicated systems are uncomparable. The pages are much simpler, even the full patient note can be completed on a single page, as single paragraph even…it doesn’t span 5-6 pages and take an hour to complete per patient. Learning the system can be slow and tedious but it is straightforward enough, and for that I  am thankful. I’m sure the real lesson will come when we get to the floor and utilize it every day, but it’s still helpful to have seen it at least a few times beforehand. 


General pathology:

this course was a doozy in general. The focus of our disease scope tended to be confined within the scope of Part 1 boards focus, however this was quite the broad spectrum. This was also a course which started in the summer, but only covered enough material at that time to cover one exam. After coming back in the fall, we hit the ground running, enduring 5 exams and a final, rapid fire.  In general path we covered topics on neoplasms, genetic disorders, blood vessel pathology, heart pathology, hematopoietic and lymph systems, lungs, kidneys, Oral/GI, biliary system, reproduction, endocrinology, CNS/PNS, skin, ear, eye, and bones/joints. The class was difficult, but I’m hopeful that the difficulty assists with studying for boards. This class will also make a transition into specifics to oral pathology in the spring.


The course this semester was mainly focused on lecture material, but did incorporate a few labs. In lecture we discussed topics like projection geometry, radiation safety, radiation physics, techniques, imaging systems, and diagnosing lesions. In labs we spent a great amount of time both taking and reading X-rays, but definitely had some time for fun in between.



This semester just involved classroom work, next semester we will incorporate lab. We discussed types of bacteria present, modes of infection, different pathologies, and histology of the pulp including cell layers, nerves and their pain modalities, as well as theories of pain transmission. It was one of the more interesting classes and certainly pertinent to the rest of our everyday careers. I’m a little excited to get my hands working in endo next semester. I know it has a stigma to it, but im not one to take an opinion on a subject to heart. Who knows where the next few semesters of diving into specialties could bring. 



This was my favorite lab during D1, and still my favorite lab this year. Lecture all the same in interest, but almost a continuation to certain parts of Dental Materials; diving deeper into alloys, composites, liners bases, chemical composition and reactions, etc. We moved beyond class 1 preparations, into class 2’s, and began working with pins.

We also got our first experiences working with indirect vision and performed quite a few manikin exercises. We got used to placing and using Rubber Dams, another item I feel has gained a bad rep, and I don’t mind using at all…so long as faculty doesn’t accidentally randomly rip it while examining my prep, which I can tell you I’ve never been able to manage myself but it’s happened quite a few times. 

I finally got my loupes this semester and after a few weeks of sea legs wearing them, it’s finally become second nature to work with them, and shocking to see the past work I thought looked great from the naked eye. Loupes do matter, people! I don’t care how good your vision is! All in all though, I did enjoy the class. I also know this is not the final verdict for everyone, and it could easily change for me in the future. I just know that if I am struggling in the class, we have an arsenal of professors very ready and willing to help at any time. 



Oh boy. This is the class that takes up the majority of my notecard shelving space, and one I feel I  generally had to work the hardest for. There were many professors, many teaching styles, and a lot of big brains trying to scratch the surface on a topic I could spend a career trying to understand and be unable to. It makes me thankful that there are laboratory technologists and microbiologists out there that can help a dentist out in times of need, not that it’s not important for me to know. Specifically interesting topics we studied, aside from all the microbes and viruses out there, was the study of antibiotics (and antibiotic overuse in the world, not just human but animal as well) and bioterrorism, the latter not being one I had ever expected to study in dental school. 


Physical Growth and Development:

I’ve taken my fair share of G&D courses in the past, but never pertaining to the head and neck until now, which is a shame in my opinion. This was a class that made my past experience in ortho make much more sense! We discussed stages of tooth development, timeframes for calcification, eruption, exfoliation, etc. We also discussed identification of anomalies on radiographs and methods to address them. My favorite part was ceph tracings, and what different measurements indicated. 


Scaling and Polishing:

We technically started this in spring semester last year, as we identified instruments we would one day use for prophys. Then in the summer we practiced on each other. This semester our D4’s scheduled two patients, non student, for us to perform prophys on! Both of mine were great. They were patient and kind. The appointments went smoothly and were much less scary than made out to be. It got us into the clinic and gave us a chance to get our hands busy and utilize the knowledge we have been compiling. 



Another class which was a sequel to a D1 class. This time, much less instrument talk, much more pathology, microbiology, histology, etc. The class was one of the easiest, but also one of the most important as we will be utilizing this knowledge literally every day as dentists. We discussed gingival diseases, staging and grading, pocket formation and causes, calculus, occlusal trauma, systemic conditions that affect the periodontium… the works. 


Fixed Prosthodontics:

This was a doozy. I would have to say the lecture quizzes were the demise of this class. I felt the quizzes were difficult and a little overboard in comparison to the actual lecture, but nonetheless, the class went fine. The lectures mainly focused on different materials used for fixed prosth cases, and mastering the preps desirable for each. We also learned that, due to the size of our class, we would now be taking on a little extra lab work when it came time to be down in the clinic. Thus, the dredded pindex came back to haunt us. After last year’s experience, I certainly had the steps down, so repetition only helped. 

(Not a pindex – but a D2 glo up all the same. )

This semester we also learned how to wax up, invest, cast, and polish a crown, as well as all the different materials involved in every step of the way.

We spent an abundance of our time on impression materials, their history, chemical composition, properties, etc. Abundance. I think out of all of it, I liked crown preps the most.

Once I got a good system down, knew the burs I would use to start and finish each type, and could reenact doing the prep in my head, I was able to speed up the process and prevent mistakes more readily.

We spent quite a bit of time working on provisional crowns as well – the crown that covers the prep temporarily while the final crown is being manufactured. We used many different types of material, all of which I fought tooth and nail with. In the end though, my favorite material this semester to use for provisionals was Integrity. It didn’t fight me as much and it was more predictable. 

May I never have to use a stainless steel provisional again, so help me. 


Implant Fundamentals:

I hadn’t expected this class to be as interesting as I found it to be. It would have to be one of my favorite classes as well. Sometimes it was hard to stay awake during the soft spoken lectures after lunch, but lab had us on our feet. In class we discussed the in depth history and physiology of implants, and covered a variety of other topics such as virtual treatment planning, treatment planning and appointment sequences in the clinic, surgical guides and manufacturing, surgical placement of implants, and allllllll the provisionals.

In lab we learned suturing,

we actually placed implants on our typodonts, then spent a few weeks working with different materials to create custom trays, essix retainers, implant provisionals, and custom abutments. There were so many steps, and so much information to cover, but it sparked my interest. I’m excited to have the chance to utilize it more in the future.

Removable Partial Dentures:

Aside from taking a Final which I could only compare to the books-long packets I received for Ochem exams in undergrad, this class was a great learning experience. Removable partial dentures is probably one of the subjects I knew least about walking into dental school. The material was relatively easy to follow along with, and the instructor certainly knew what he was teaching us inside and out. Quizzes were a doozy, yet again, but with good intentions, I suppose. 

One of the more difficult parts of the class, mostly pertaining to lab, was sorting through all the material given to you by different professors. It turns out, just as with almost anything in dentistry, everyone does everything slightly different. This is such a variation from medicine that I almost had a hard time grasping it, but it’s growing on me. Everyone really does have a different way of doing almost everything because dentistry is genuinely a field of Artistry and Engineering. There’s more than one way to do almost every procedure, and there’s always more than one right way to get the same end goal. Techniques all end with the same result it can just be approached from a variety of methods…and in this class the variety was again – abundant. Once I decided to stick to the same group of professors for advice throughout labs, until I learned more of what I was doing, it made the class more enjoyable. Maybe a good suggestion for dental school all around. 

In this class we had the change to design framework, modify it, create record bases and utilize them, set teeth and festoon and adjust on the model. Some of my classmates have even been working on partials downstairs, in our One World clinic which is very exciting to see! 




Complete Denture Prosthodontics:

The first day we sat down in the lab to set teeth, a classmate told me it was overheard that a D3 likes to set teeth because it is therapeutic for her… by the end of the day I thought she had to be insane. By the end of the semester, with a lot more practice and knowledge under my belt, I still wouldn’t do it on a saturday night but I find it more enjoyable. The only reason for enjoyment came from watching way too many youtube and IGTV videos of people setting teeth and festooning, taking all the information soup I had gathered, and picking things I liked and disliked about their teeth until I could set and festoon the full denture to my liking.

I definitely cracked out a level, and spent my whole class with my cheek to my desk while setting teeth, and burned my fingers countless times with the alcohol torch, but handing in the final set for processing sure felt good. 

We essentially learned the background, materials, and all the steps to fabricating dentures. We get to continue this class next semester, and take our first denture patient. I know who my potential patient is (if all works out for us), and I’m honestly feeling all sorts of blessed that they trust in me to create dentures for them. Excited for what the next semester may bring!


If you’re not in dental school yet, or if you’re a D1 reading and worried about the future. My best piece of advice is to take it a day at a time. I take a look at my schedule 1-2 weeks in advance and only plan out that. Each day is a preparation for the next day, and I feel that in smaller doses, this world is more manageable. I do enjoy dental school, regardless of what goes on outside of it. I wish sometimes that life could just be lectures and lab and preparing for patients, because it would honestly be pretty great. You’ll have a lot of exams, just like you’ll probably have a lot of troubling cases in private practice and these moments are meant to prepare you for the bigger, real, future problems you’ll face. It’s hard to explain in one sentence to anyone how dental school is going, because it’s a fluid entity. Every day and week are different. My feelings about it change just as often. You’ll have good and bad weeks, its life but it’s worth it. 


At the moment, I’m working with a few classmates to bring you a series of perspective posts that may bring light to the life of a dental student. If you’re interested in this topic, make sure you follow along for announcements in the coming weeks. 


May 2020 bring forth just as much adventure and knowledge, may it find you in health and wellness, and may it be fruitful to the hard work and passion you’ve offered it. 


Cheers to another semester down.


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