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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!

“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

D3 Life- A Day in The Sweet Life

March 4, 2015

Hola. It’s me again. Welcome to the latest installment of True Life: I’m a D3. Can you believe I’m nearly two shorts months away from being a D4? Me either. How did I get here? Where am I going? Let me tell you about D3 life; the sweet life. One thing is true- I did not choose the D3 life, the D3 life chose me. It is a magical oasis of semi-relaxation snuggled like a warm hug between year 1-the countless hours spent in the cave of knowledge and year 4-“I have to find a real job”.  Trust me, you need that warm hug after year 2 boards are done. I am also delighted to be done with Dexter requirements. Sorry bro, it’s nothing personal.

On any particular day of the school week I wake up gingerly, drink copious amounts of coffee while doing my morning Pinteresting (this routine never gets old) before I leave the house and make the trek to campus for an always seemingly unique and interesting day.  A typical day in any given week of D3 year consists of two lectures and two clinic sessions. Exams have grown fewer and far between since moving out of pre-clinic and finishing “the systems”.  At the end of my typical Tuesday I am able to spend time with my beloved dog Nuggie, make a nice dinner, work on my fitness, socialize with family and friends, watch TV or read a book, craft, bake, get a good nights sleep, or anything else my little heart desires. It’s pretty great. We D3s stay plenty busy now with a different kind of self directed work; reviewing radiographs for treatment plans, managing a patient pool, making a mess in the wet lab for prostho cases, preparing perio records, and making that production happen. If there is a catch phrase for my class it might sound something like “Can I get a CEU (1200 required to graduate!) for that?” We are a motivated and ambitious bunch. Never to worry if you need an OS (oral surgery) assistant; a posting on the Facepage will leave you with four eager volunteers. Why yes I will be the backup, to the understudy, to the on-deck assistant thank you very much. Just in case.

By now most of have cycled through the year 3 rotations: oral surgery, hospital dentistry, pediatrics, and orthodontics. This means that we have almost all experienced our “firsts”: extraction, suturing, root canal, implant case, surgical experience, and the list goes on. I find that days go by quickly when I’m busy hustling and moving around the school.  Hoofing it up to the third floor clinic multiple times per day, because I have most certainly forgotten anything sacred in the land of dentistry in my locker by the time I have reached my cubicle, has helped me achieve my 20,000 daily steps and for that I am thankful. Some days in clinic you might feel like you’re the cats pajamas… and then you are brought back down to earth by the sticking sound of your clinical instructors explorer tine not detecting a clean DEJ. I am still perplexed with the enigma that is single handedly placing a rubber dam. The struggle is real people. But luckily your best friend always shows up in the nick of time with some handy dandy dental floss. It has crossed my mind many times when things are stressful of how nice it would be if Nuggie could be my designated dental therapy dog. I think this is a genius idea: four-legged furry friend>nitrous oxide. Just kidding, but really. At the end of the day, I get by with a little help from my friends, dispensing staff, PCC office staff, dental assistants, faculty, front desk ladies- I couldn’t do it without them… and a good sense of humor of course. And if that’s not enough there’s always someone to joke around with and show you their latest weekend Instagram shenanigans whilst waiting in line for faculty checks to make your day all the better.

As this year comes to a close we can look forward to finding out where we’ll spend time on outreach rotations next year, many will start to embark on externships, and begin applying for specialty programs and jobs.  A fresh, new batch of bright-eyed D1s will be joining the mix and I look forward to seeing familiar faces from the interview experience.

Cheers and Go Blue!



Chelsea Pinozek is a lover of fitness and froyo, enjoys cooking for friends, tending to the needs of the worlds cutest poodle, and continues to convince people that she is in fact, not from Canada.  

Want more Chelsea? Check out her recap of her D1 year:

Day in the Life of the Not-So-Typical, Typical D2

February 25, 2015
Groundhog Day

“Do you know what today is? Today is tomorrow. It happened.”

5:15 am; my alarm jostles me from the sleep it seems I just entered, still weary from the week past and the weekend that just ended. This is my perpetual groundhog day (the movie recounts the events of a misanthropic reporter doomed to relive a single day for eternity) , a movie familiar to other children of the 80’s and 90’s, which likely escapes the minds of my classmate a decade my junior. I quietly creep to the shower guided by the light of my cell phone as to not awaken my sleeping family nor my tired eyes. A quick check of my sleeping family and I leave for the day not to return until 6:30pm that night. I typically arrive at the bus stop around 6:45 to catch  the 6:55 bus and arrive on campus around 7:20. This 40 minutes before class is a CRUCIAL point in my day, the last chance to complete any homework or a last minute review for a morning quiz. I have found it is necessary to review MULTIPLE calendars for clinic assignments, personal events and patient planning as most school events are not located in one convenient place.

Most days start at 8am with class after class of oral surgery, oral pathology, occlusion to name a few up until noon when the last few drops of coffee have left our system and sleep seem inevitable.  We have lunch, a recharge for many- catch up with friends, get coffee or take the occasional nap in the commons. The afternoon is a blur. A hustle to leave our 1pm class to make it upstairs by 2pm to prepare for the afternoons patients.  We are fortunate to have early exposure to patients during the winter of our D2 year with a small patient pool and clinic days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. While a simple exam and cleaning may not seem intimidating, the preparation and pre-ordering of materials can make the difference between an efficient and thorough exam or leaving the dental school at 5:30 and catching a late crowded bus home.

I typically arrive back home around 6:30 and absolutely love coming home to my family. Both my boys rush to the stairs when they hear me come in and my wife breathes a sigh of relief from her 12 hours of entertaining two toddlers at home! Dinner and play time ensue and I catch up on the events of the day before hitting the books at 9pm. I sequester myself at the kitchen table from 9-10:30pm when my eyes betray me and I have no energy left to read and call it a night.  5:15 am and it starts all over again……

For those considering the pursuit of dental education later in life I can attest to your ability to succeed. You can find balance between life, school and family but this MANDATES an ability to budget and plan your time. There WILL be times when you miss out on milestones in your family including first words and steps, preschool events and precious time with loved ones.  You may not be involved with large social outings or find time for extracurricular activities BUT you will have achieved something truly impressive, a better life for your and your family. Dental education isn’t easy, even without the responsibilities of being a mother or a father.  I am here to say that with the support of your spouse and family, you can indeed succeed.

Brandon Churchman is a D2 who works most weekends in area emergency departments as a physician assistant and lives with his wife and two sons.

A Friday in the Life… of a Frazzled D1

February 17, 2015

It’s 7:15 AM and I’ve already hit my snooze button twice. I hear my two roommates giggling in the kitchen, also D1s, and I wish for the 1000th time I could be a morning person, or at least be better at pretending. I take a moment to envision all of the potential greatness of this day. I take deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, with each breath I chant my morning mantra: inhale ‘I’; exhale ‘can’. My inspiration is immediately squashed by the blast of cold air that hits me as I roll out of bed. And with that, my morning is a rushed blur of just trying to get to class before 7:59am.

I love walking into school—a building that I have known for a mere 7 months, yet feels so much like home. Every face is familiar, even our movements are synced. I try to squeeze my lunch into the fridge and the same person is there to hold the door open, every morning like clockwork. Between walking through the front doors and sitting down for our first lecture hall, I’ve usually engaged in at least five conversations filled with laughter and hugs. There is never a lonely moment at this school. Some days, it would be nice to go unknown, but on most days this feeling of familiarity is an anchor in an ever changing, sometimes violent sea.

I walk into our first lecture hall, bee-lining for ‘my’ seat. I see my best friend, and no matter how I feel, her warmth and positivity wash over me and I instantly feel better. Cassie and I met at the beginning of the program, and only 7 months later I would go to the ends of the earth for this wonderful, amazing being. She just gets me. Dental school friendships are like no other. From the lecture hall to the clinic to the gym, the overwhelming stress (27.5 credits a semester, to be exact) of D1 year creates the ultimate bond. Whether it is studying until 2am or staying on the dance floor until 2am, these 105 people are by your side every step of the way. Together. Everyday. All day.

The lecture begins, and I spend the first 5 minutes trying to figure out which class this even is. Download the slides. Check my email. Refresh my Instagram feed, and then in an attempt to learn something I shove my phone to the bottom of my backpack. I follow along for a few slides. I hear Josh opening his first granola bar of the day. After 3 minutes of painfully trying to focus, I allow myself to check Facebook and I automatically tune out the professor. I hear someone drop their coffee mug, and the momentary panic of hoping nothing has spilled. I see Brandon tense up in his chair, so I know the professor’s microphone battery has just died. People start to chatter. The lecture resumes. It takes all of my willpower to keep my eyes open and my mind focused on the information being thrown at us. The slide changes to a very graphic image of tooth decay, and I feel guilty about sipping my coffee (with sugar!) and immediately pop in a piece of Xylitol gum. Before I realize, it’s 8:50am and we get a 10-minute break before our next lecture. I take a deep breath and think to myself, only 7 more hours until the end of the day; inhale ‘I’, exhale ‘can’.

Two hours of cariology discussing potential vaccines against Streptococcus mutans. Two hours of Nervous System discussing axon guidance and neurotrophic factors. By the end of this week, we have had about 22 hours of new lecture material. I compulsively open my google calendar during class, blocking off time for reviewing this material. The hours of my weekend disappearing as fast as my morning coffee. I stare at the list of upcoming exams and due dates, calculating how many more scantrons I will be filling out this semester. 5 exams down, 21 to go. Inhale ‘I’, exhale ‘can’.

At 11:57am I am walking into the gym for my lunchtime workout. I mentally make a bet with myself about how many people from the dental school I will see today: I guess 8 people. We are all creatures of habit. As I slide plates onto the bar, I mentally go through my never-ending to-do list.

By 12:45pm I am scarfing down my lunch, wandering around the Forum before our class at 1pm and mingling with the upperclassmen. I run into my sister (a D4) on her way up to clinic as she quickly relays me a message from Mom and confirms dinner plans. I fall into step with a few D2s and we chat about the upcoming festivities for this weekend. I text my friend about our study date later tonight as I simultaneously talk to my classmate about the online quiz that is due soon. All at once, I am caught up in the whirlwind of my day, all of the parts of my life blurring together into one massive, messy painting; my sister, my friends, my studies, my health, my happiness. I smile to myself, trying to remember this feeling of satisfaction with life. With a jolt, Dr. Karl’s voice comes onto the mic and by 1:03pm I am learning about ways to avoid removing too much tooth structure when polishing a Class IV restoration.

This day is not too bad. It’s Friday after all. Lecture is dismissed and we have the rest of the afternoon in pre-clinic to prepare for our practical next week and complete the project sheet due a few weeks from now. I head to my locker to switch out my backpack for my white clinic coat. I rush to gather materials before the line builds and set up my lab bench. As the lab session goes on, I am caught in a frenzy between rushing to find faculty to evaluate my work and taking my time working, surrounded by people laughing and happily chattering away. I get up to stretch my legs and relax my eyes from the precision of working in millimeters. I joke around with my row instructors and ask about their week and their children. Every now and then, a friend sticks their head over my bench to say hi and we talk about plans for tonight. I am having an internal battle with myself about whether or not to go out tonight. It’s cold and I’m tired. But I don’t want to miss out, and if I stay in, I will probably end up staying up until midnight watching Netflix anyways. I get my last signature for the day and I feel very satisfied with my work, so I start to pack up.

At the stroke of 4:30pm, I am out the door on my way to teach a yoga class at a studio just down the street from the school. As I walk there, I try to compartmentalize all of the information that has saturated my head since 8am. Twice a week, I get to pretend I am not in dental school and I teach hot vinyasa yoga classes. Having this job outside of the program has given me an entirely new community of friends and an outlet for my creative passion. I get to socialize with my students before and after class, many of whom are regulars, and some are even dental students. It is such a privilege to witness progress in my students and it brings me so much happiness to inspire a personal growth in each of them.

By 6:30pm, I am locking up the studio doors; my throat raw from talking through a 60-minute class, my mind tired from full day of school, and my body still buzzing from the high-speed drill.

I stand outside of the studio on the sidewalk, looking left and right. I am unsure of what to do in this moment. I am technically done with school and work for the week. I mentally roll through my to-do list, feeling torn in so many directions. Should I study, socialize, or sleep? I feel this compulsive need to always be doing something. That obsessive drive all dental students have, the reason we are all here at the best dental school in the country.

I pause for a moment to put my headphones on, press play on Beyoncé’s ‘Me, Myself, and I’, and ask myself, what do I truly want in this instant? I wipe sweat from my forehead and try to smooth down my frizzy hair, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, literally: my backpack, my lunch box, my bag of scrubs, my yoga mat. My honest answer is a glass of wine.

I walk the few blocks to Sava’s and plop down at the bar. I order glass of wine, savoring this moment of freedom from obligation, small talk, the need to please anyone but myself. The smells of delicious food and cozy chatter surround me. In this moment I am happy. I am doing exactly what I want to do in life, and even though my days have never been more exhausting I am enjoying every minute.

Someone notices my M Dentistry shirt. “Are you in the dental school?” And just like that, I make a new friend. I sit with this person, who happens to be a law student, for a few hours chatting about the life of a grad student. I am reminded that life cannot get any better than this: being at this outstanding school, in this incredible town, with new experiences to be pursued and friends to be met everyday.

If you’re wondering how the rest of the story ends: I ended up in bed by midnight and I was able to wake up early the next morning and get an entire day of studying before enjoying a fun Saturday night out with classmates! Sunday again consisted of teaching a yoga class and studying, only to bring me back to Monday. 8am-5pm, just to stay alive.

Shivani Kamodia is a D1


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