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Welcome to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry's Blog!

Here you will find blogs from our students about various issues facing our prospective dental professionals, from a day in the life to dealing with frigid Michigan winters. Please email to suggest a topic you would be interested in learning about. Enjoy!

Movember and the Birth of Dental Dudes

November 20, 2015

If you’ve been following this blog, or are just stopping by for the first time, it is no secret that the life of a first year dental student is often far from one of leisure. One description about the first year of dental school that I find incredibly fitting is one that Dr. Mark Pinsky gave to us during lecture: “Your life is like a game of whack-a-mole, there is always something to be done.” The truth is that even in the midst of what feels like an insurmountable amount of schoolwork, we often find ways to keep the class morale high.

One, surprisingly warm, late October day, I stumbled across the Movember foundation homepage via an ad on Twitter.  With a pitch reading “Mustaches for a great cause” and a picture of men with above average facial hair, I was intrigued to find out more.

Much like the Breast Cancer awareness month of October, this foundation exists to promote awareness for diseases that are specific to men.  The diseases include prostate cancer (the second most common cancer of men in the US), testicular cancer (the most common cancer in young men), poor mental health (affects 25% of men), and physical inactivity (affects 53.8% of men).  If raising awareness and money wasn’t enough, the foundation also funds academic and clinical institutions with the money raised to conduct research in these specific areas.

So you’re telling me that I can contribute to raising awareness, donations, funding research all by growing a moustache for the month of November? SIGN ME UP!!  My next move: how to get involved with the foundation? After registering with the page, a “create a team” option was available.  Who could I possibly recruit to jump on board with me and grow a mustache for an entire month? Who would possibly be willing to seize this opportunity?

The next day in school, I happened to stumble upon the 1881 school of dentistry composite photo.The amount of moustache in that class was nothing short of superb (not to mention the hair style was also fantastic). I then found myself lost in the wall of 1980’s composite photos, which were also drenched in moustache galore.


As I walked into the lecture hall, realizing I was about to be late for class, my eureka moment occurred. The moustache has been an indirect symbol of men in dentistry and I needed to recruit my classmates to join the movement.  It all made sense, just like millionth time I was explained the composition of enamel, and the first time I heard the Back Street Boys in 4th grade. In this moment the “Dental Dudes” Movember team was born.

I rushed to find my seat in the lecture hall and pull out my computer. I devised a quick message to post in our class Facebook page before class starts. I was expecting that one maybe two guys would want to join in. At the end of the day, thirteen of my classmates signed up to join the Movember foundation as a part of our team. Not only was I excited that my classmates were joining in but I was beginning to realize the magnitude of what would be occurring for the month of November.

Keep an eye out for the conclusion of this thrilling tale, as well as a pretty impressive picture of the retro ‘staches the Dental Dudes were able to grow.  To donate to their Movember campaign, check out their campaign page

Alex Shore is a D1, and the Social Chairman for the D1 class.  He can also grow a pretty luxurious moustache.


The Gift of Toothpaste- Oral Health in the Himalayas

October 27, 2015

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Not many people in the states know about the country of Bhutan. It is a small kingdom nestled in the Himalayas and sandwiched between the two powerhouses India and China. With a population of merely 700,000, the entirely Buddhist culture has been shielded from the developed western world until about 16 years ago in 1999 when they first opened their doors and allowed TV and Internet to penetrate the everyday lives of the citizens. Known most by foreigners for it’s Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product and it’s attempt to become 100% organic, Bhutan is the living example of a society that many in our fast-paced stressful world only dream of.

It was to this unique culture that I found myself traveling on August 22, 2015 for my Summer Recess. Cat O’Brien, a good friend who lives and teaches in Bhutan, invited me to visit her school. After hearing her stories and seeing pictures, I knew what a unique opportunity this was and looked for a way to take full advantage of it.

The Taft Room, our then haphazard storage room, was getting cleaned and consolidated at the same time that I was preparing for my trip. I took advantage of this and went to StuCo President Luke Aiura and asked for his help. He found a couple of unexpired cases of pediatric toothpaste that were in line to be discarded. I took these cases with me as a gift for Cat’s students. After hearing about the lack of hygiene awareness in Cat’s school, I knew these were a perfect gift.

I carried on 72 sample size pediatric toothpastes through four airports and thirty-four hours of traveling. After arriving and a four-hour car ride full of green Himalayan Mountainsides later, I found myself in the small village of Thinleygang, Bhutan. Feeling the ten-hour time difference, I ate a small dinner and immediately fell asleep.

The next day I woke up in the clouds and tried to orient myself to the time difference and the village before heading to school with Cat. She teaches English to two sections of Class 4, about sixty students total. Her students were very excited to meet another foreigner and even more excited to learn that I brought them gifts from the States. As I passed out the toothpaste the students had to be instructed by Ms. Cat that, “this is not chocolate, do not eat it.” I followed with a little oral health instruction on how and when to use the toothpaste along with what it does to their teeth.

Word spreads quickly in small villages and very soon after class I had other Bhutanese teachers approaching me asking for “Colgate” –their word for any brand of toothpaste – and even after reaching Cat’s house at the end of the day villagers continued to ask if I had any left.

In my short time in Bhutan I observed that oral hygiene is not a primary concern of their population. Due to their diet of almost entirely rice and organic vegetables, most of the adults do not suffer from very much tooth decay. The young children, however, who are growing up in an increasingly developed country with chips, chocolates, and sweets being imported from India are experiencing exponentially more and more oral problems.

As my trip drew to an end, I reflected on how rapidly the country of Bhutan is changing. With more food being imported from India, oral health will soon gain more attention. After about a month, Cat tells me that she has students telling her that they still have their tubes of toothpaste and that they share it with their brothers and sisters. I felt very privileged to visit this protected country and very happy to be able to raise a little awareness of oral hygiene in the village of Thinleygang. 

I would like to thank Cat, my guides during my trip, as well as the O’Brien’s and others that made this trip possible.

If you would like to learn more or support the organization Cat is involved with, please visit The Bhutan Canada Foundation at

Nicholas Reece is a D2 that enjoys traveling and experiencing different culture first hand.

One Year Post Interview- A D1 Perspective

October 8, 2015
Michael at his CVI last year.

Michael at his CVI last year.

To all the Upcoming Dental Applicants…I am excited for you!

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I applied to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.  I remember my undergrad, the DAT, the application, and the interview process all too well.  While it was hectic, stressful, and often times discouraging, I am grateful for the experiences had and the lessons learned.

Being from Arizona, it was exciting and new to see the colors of fall, something I had only seen in photos.  Even more surprising was the bitter cold that hurt my hands and face when I stayed outdoors for too long!  Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that Michigan was right for me.

I was impressed by the kindness, and warm welcome Michigan showed towards the incoming applicants.  During the interview, the faculty conducted a ‘getting to know you’ exercise in which I had the opportunity to learn about a few of my future classmates – some of them are good friends here with me now!

After a tour of the school, we were guided to a room where we began the Multi-Mini Interviews (MMI).  The biggest message I wanted to convey was of being genuine and true to whom I am.  I wanted them to see me for who I was and accept me because of it.  Once the interview process was over we were released to wonder and hope that we had represented ourselves well enough to meet the Michigan standard.

The upcoming months leading to December seemed to be a constant cycle of doubt and confidence, practically making it impossible to concentrate on my undergraduate classes!  There were weird moments when I was sure I wouldn’t get in to Michigan, I kept replaying the interview in my mind, thinking ‘I should have emphasized this more’.  But then there were times when I realized I had worked so hard, and my actions reflected my desire to attend Michigan.

November 30th arrived with great anticipation.  I remember thinking, ‘why is today going so slow?!’  I felt like a 5-year-old kid on the day before Christmas!  My pre-dental friends didn’t make it any easier to keep my mind off the time by discussing where they wanted to go.

The morning of December 1st finally arrived, and my phone was blowing up with messages!  My friends shared their successes by texting where they had been accepted, some had already heard from three schools.  Unfortunately, I had yet to hear from any school, most importantly Michigan.  8 o’clock rolled by, but I wasn’t initially worried because it was still early in the day – surely Michigan must have loads of people they were trying to reach and talk to! 9 o’clock…nothing.  10 o’clock, now I was getting nervous – should I call them?

I remember being more upset and frustrated at myself than any other time in my life.  I had worked so hard to get into Michigan, and now I was going to have to wait a whole year before I had the chance.  While I was happy for my friends, I was also slightly envious of their received acceptances.

11 o’clock came and went, and it was time to head to class.  Just before I pulled out of the driveway, my phone had an unmistakable ‘ding’ signifying I got an email.  Immediately checking it for good news, I saw that it was from Michigan!  I was cautious to open the email, knowing that if I had been accepted I would have received a phone call, instead of an email…were they rejecting me already?

I saw that it was from Pattie Katcher, who informed me that they had been trying to contact me throughout the day and that I needed to call her!  My heart started racing and I immediately dialed the number to the school.

Pattie picked up the phone, and once again, informed me that they had been trying to get ahold of me – stating that my phone number was not dialing through!  I expressed my gratitude for her taking the time to email me, and then waited to hear what she had to say…

Pattie started with a polite introduction, and then finally offered an acceptance into Michigan!  My wife, who happened to be with me at the time, was able to celebrate this moment with me and share my joy first hand.  There are only a handful of moments in life that you truly vividly remember, and being accepted into dental school is one of them!

When I applied, I had an idea what dental school was like.  Existing dental students told me, “you will have a lot of sleepless nights” or  “it will push you beyond your pre-conceived limits” – all of which are true!  Dental school requires a lot of time, attention, and sacrifice.  If you are willing to invest all three, you are set!

Although my experience at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry has been only a few short months, I am happy to be part of it!  I chose Michigan because it is ranked as the top dental school in the U.S. and 4th in the world, and I desired to build a strong foundational health care knowledge.

Dentistry is more than just filling teeth here at Michigan – you’re officially being trained to be the world’s best and brightest health care professionals.  Dentistry is not a trade, but a profession in which we have the opportunity to be proficient health care scientists within the oral cavity.

You can only do dental school once, make the right choice and hope that Michigan picks you to be a 2020 dental school candidate…good luck!

Michael Halcomb is a D1, happily married, Arizona native, and a Harry Potter fan. He also wants to remind you to check your phone number on your application twice!

“Those Who Stay…”

August 11, 2015

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What better way to spend a kick-off than touring the biggest stadium in the United States?!  At the beginning of each academic year, the Leadership Pathway and the Scholars Program in Dental Leadership organization (SPDL) hold a kickoff where student members and the supporting faculty can get to know each other, talk about the organization, and learn about leadership in an informal environment.  This year, our group was lucky enough to take a tour of the Michigan Big House Stadium.  For many of the first year dental students, this was their first time seeing the inside of the stadium.  And for those of us who are senior dental students, this marks our last year of being able to stand in the student section.  Whether this was a first or last, or somewhere in between, the excitement was everywhere when our tour guide led us through those iconic wrought iron gates and into the elevators.

Michigan Stadium is truly impressive. The sheer size is what makes it globally known, but the attention to detail, vision, and investment from a multitude of people and organizations is what truly makes this Stadium awe inspiring.  All levels of the stadium represent the University’s pride, from the block ‘M’ on the turf that gets cleared off during the winter, to the sold out season tickets.  As students, the importance of our school’s history and reputation is infectious, and a tour through the stadium reminded us of what it means to be a part of a program that is known for its “leaders and best”.

Once we left the Big House, the members were able to enjoy dinner together in a nearby park, converse with faculty, interact with each other through team-building exercises, and discuss the year ahead.  After such a fun and motivating kickoff, we are even more excited to start the year.  Just as the football team has been training tirelessly to prepare for the Fall season, the SPDL Executive Committee has been working hard to bring impactful, fresh ideas and opportunities to our monthly leadership training meetings.  The reputation of hard work and achievement that SPDL has earned over the years, and the changes through the school, the university, the community, and other countries that have been implemented through hard work, speak to the passion of the current members and alumni alike.  This sort of reputation means every year we are motivated by high expectations that can be difficult to reach. But, if we remember this kickoff – the enthusiasm and camaraderie, along with the lessons of pride and teamwork – we have a chance to be a part of the most influential and successful year these organizations have ever had. Which is why we are eager to engage all SPDL and Leadership members, let them grow, and challenge them with a line that sounds almost too familiar… ‘Those who stay, will be leaders’.

Joseph Farkash and Janet Zalucha are D4s and on the eBoard for SPDL.

To check out the full album of the Michigan Stadium visit, check out our Flickr page. Locker room, box seats and a pick up football game on the field, you don’t want to miss it.


August 5, 2015

Sharing an office with the Admissions team means that I hear potential students ask the #1 question all the time.  “What is your best advice about applying to dental school?” The answer, the always answer, is APPLY EARLY.  Admissions reviews applications on a rolling basis. What does that mean to you? It means that if you apply the day the admissions cycle opens, you’re among the first applicants to be reviewed.  Among the first to be discussed by the admissions committee.  And potentially, among the first to be invited to an interview and invited to join the Class of 2020.

Take a look at this video, and you’ll see that APPLY EARLY is universal advice for Dental Schools.

And a bonus bit of advice- when you’re APPLYING EARLY- make sure your application is 100% complete.  Because your application won’t be sent to the admissions committee until ALL of the application is complete.  Good Luck and Go Blue!


Give Kids a Smile 2015: Healthy Smiles, Healthy Kids!

April 16, 2015
Featured in the picture are the coordinators on the right (Arielle Castine and Gabrielle Zuzo) and D2 coordinators on the left (Teddy Eusebio and Betsey Baumann-Smeenge), plus Toothy!

Featured in the picture are the coordinators on the right (Arielle Castine and Gabrielle Zuzo) and D2 coordinators on the left (Teddy Eusebio and Betsey Baumann-Smeenge), plus Toothy!

Months of planning and coordinating go into a dental clinic that only runs from 9am-2pm. Reaching schools, community health centers, and more, we strive for a great turn-out the day of the event.

The night before Give Kids a Smile, I woke up repeatedly throughout the night, eager and anxious for the next day.  When I showed up bright and early on March 28th, families were already waiting to be seen at 7:00am, even though registration did not begin until 8:30am.

We had an abundance of volunteers, and they were there early to help. Because of the help of 125 dental students and dental hygiene students, our day was successful! With the help of ten faculty volunteers and two community dentists, our day ran smoothly and we provided lots of free dental care.

In the waiting room area, we had an extensive oral hygiene set-up, which our dental hygiene students and pre-dental students ran, which helped out tremendously. They had coloring tables, a “Rethink Your Drink” station that showed the sugar levels of popular beverages, and lots more fun stuff for kids! While sitting at registration, I saw students actively engaging children by reading them stories and coloring with them. Even our school mascot “Toothy,” was present and bringing huge smiles to the faces of all the kids and parents.

Calculating the totals for the day, we ended up providing between $9,000-10,000 of work, based on procedure costs in the UMSOD Pediatric Clinic. We saw 38 children, and provided a range of treatment, from exams and prophies to extractions and pulpotomies.  We had patients from a wide range of backgrounds and even had students interpreting various languages for the families and providers.

The time and effort put in by our students, faculty, and outside volunteers make this event successful year after year. Our generous sponsor, the Washtenaw District Dental Society provides donations and time to event every year, and we are extremely grateful.

Now that Michigan has implemented better dental insurance plans for children, this was an extremely successful turnout. We had a great interest in parents registering their children as permanent patients at the school. Our ultimate goal is creating a dental home for these families, and I believe we truly made an impact on these families.

Arielle Castine was the co-coordinator of Give Kids a Smile 2015. We are so grateful to these amazing coordinators for giving their time to ensure this annual event comes together.  We are truly a community taking care of a community.  ~ School of Dentistry

For more Give Kids a Smile 2015 pictures, see Flickr. For more information, see the School of Dentistry story.

D4- 2 Months to Go till New Chapters

March 16, 2015
(Not Stephanie's Socks)

(Not Stephanie’s Socks)

7:30am- I pop out of bed and start my daily bustle. I am a morning person. I like having time in the morning to get ready for patients (how do I adjust an all-zirconia crown again?) and drink enough coffee that my hands start wobbling. No crown preps planned for today!

8:15am- I walk to school to finish lab work for my 9am patient. It’s so cold that I wonder if the feeling I have is frostbite and imagine my lips freezing off. I daydream about an upcoming scuba diving trip I have planned in the Florida Keys in a few weeks. Whew!

8:30am- My friend from undergrad calls to let me know that she is in town for work and would like to get xrays taken to see if she is a good candidate for my Board exam coming up. Yes and yes and yes please.

9:30am- My patient arrives late because of traffic and icy roads. I don’t mind waiting because she is my favorite patient. I have told at least 10 patients that they are my favorite but she is ACTUALLY my favorite. In addition to being a very amiable person who is rarely late, she has needed multiple restorations, a crown, an extraction, an implant, and a root canal. This is a full-spectrum patient. The appointment goes so smoothly that I wait for something sticky to arise but it doesn’t. Hooray!

10:30am- Dr. Gonzalez chides me for not keeping up my weekly running routine. I ponder that and decide to run after school. Throughout dental school, exercise has been the one thing that I consider non-negotiable. I always feel better after my heart is pumping.

12:00pm- I schedule an appointment for my friend in the emergency clinic and drop off a stone model of my morning patient for my favorite (and left-handed like me) periodontal resident, Dr. Steve Davis. One of the aspects that I enjoy most about being in school at U of M is that if you want an expert opinion in any of the various specialties about a patient you explain your patient’s signs and symptoms in person. Periapical radiolucency? Skip over to endo. Implant consult? Stroll over to perio. Soft tissue abnormality? Head down to oral medicine.

1:00pm- I eat lunch with my roommate Michelle, who is also a D4. We talk about her potential job opportunities and my potential apartments for next year. She’s staying in Michigan to join a private practice or outreach clinic and I’m staying in Ann Arbor to do a General Practice Residency at the Veteran’s Hospital. I’ve spent eight years in this amazing town, and I am grateful to spend a ninth completing a residency. Go Blue!

2:30pm- I get fingerprinted in preparation to get my dental license in a few months. I immediately get an email with the title “FBI Criminal History Report”. I hope that I’m not a criminal without ever knowing it. I scan the report. Appears clear.

3:30pm- My friend gets screened as a potential patient. I take a bad xray. Then I take another bad xray. The faculty looks at me sideways. It’s times like these that I realize that my education won’t end when I graduate. It’s times like these that I remember why graduation is called “commencement” (beginning) instead of “completion”.  I cheer (silently) when I see that she has a cavity that I can fill during my NERB exam.

6:00pm- I eat dinner and walk to the gym. It’s so cold but once I get there I start to run and feel the endorphins. The best.

7:00pm- I love this time of day because I feel like I can relax and do anything. During D1 and D2 year this was the time I spent studying but now I actually read books for fun and cook and organize my sock drawer. If that doesn’t sound exciting I also mountain bike, ice climb, and rock climb so sometimes I also do interesting things. Today I read.

9:00pm- I talk with my friends from high school and plan trips to visit them in Arizona, Seattle, and New York during the time between graduation and residency. We have a few months off before licensing kicks in so it’s a mandatory vacation.

11:30- Rest up for another cushy day as a D4!

Stephanie Johnson is an allllllmost graduated D4


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