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A day in the life of a first year D1 Dental Student

November 30, 2010

It’s the last day of class before Thanksgiving break begins, and this is a much desired break.  I am currently looking at less than one month left of my first semester in dental school.  With this break almost upon us, I have a few minutes to stop and reflect on my day-to-day experiences in dental school so far.  It has certainly been a whirlwind of a semester.  All one hundred and five students in my class had to hit the ground running as the summer term began in July with Head and Neck Anatomy,  Dental Anatomy, and several introductory courses to name a few.  This was an interesting time in which I was feeling my way (literally) through my first anatomy dissection course, becoming acquainted with the diverse group of students that will share a lecture hall with me for the next four years, spending time with my wife of only a couple of months, and trying to make Ann Arbor my home.

Fall semester was here before I knew it.  I was done studying branches of the trigeminal nerve and many other intricacies of the complex head and neck anatomy.  The semester commenced with 27 credits that cover a wide range of didactic, clinical, and procedural content.  During a typical week this semester, I spend about 32 hours in one lecture hall.  This is a considerable amount of time to sit in one place, but I assure you that the chairs are comfortable and the long days are bearable.  This didactic curriculum is balanced by four hours of clinical time and four hours of pre-clinical time that is scheduled into our curriculum. 

In pre-clinic, every class period brings about the opportunity to learn or improve a hand skill and observe the logic behind evidence-based procedures in dentistry.  I arrive in pre-clinic, set up my rubber-faced manikin, prepare the long list of dental instruments, and review the procedure that I will be attempting that day.  This is an invaluable part of the curriculum as didactic coursework is translated into the physical procedures on my manikin.  This time provides the opportunity to make mistakes, experiment with technique, or maybe just perform the procedure perfectly on the first try.  Guidance from our row instructors allows us to improve our accuracy, speed, and overall comfort with the procedure at hand.  The pre-clinical faculty members are great!

The last crucial part of my weekly schedule is the afternoon that I spend up in clinic every week.  After lunch, I put on my white coat and walk up three flights of stairs to my assigned clinic.  I arrive just in time to find the afternoon patients sitting down with their third or fourth year, student dental providers (D3 and D4 students).  These upperclassmen are typically eager to have an extra pair of hands to assist them during their appointment.  My duties vary from running a high-speed suction to assisting with impressions and the restoration process.  Most importantly, I have the opportunity to see how 2-4 years of dental school will transform my knowledge and expertise in the dental profession.  I admire the professional behavior and skill with which these upperclassmen practice, and I look forward to developing these same skills with the rest of my D1 class.  Overall, my day to day experience can be quite hectic, but it is always rewarding once the hard work is put in.  It certainly helps to have an awesome group of peers that are going through the same experience by my side.

Nathan P. is a current D1 student who is looking forward to being done with this semester and a break!  For links to more information about the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, please see our “About U-M School of Dentistry” page. 

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