Dental school is like a roller coaster ride. You spend ages waiting in line to get a seat and as soon as the ride starts there are highs and lows and some unexpected turns along the way.
But in the end, it’s the thrill and enjoyment that comes with it that makes the whole experience worthwhile.
So, here are some of my tips to ensure you have a safe and fun ride!
Tip 1: stay organised
Five years may seem like a long time, however do not overestimate this. It is very important to be organised, as failing to plan, is planning for failure.
Hence, I would advise everyone to keep a log of all their upcoming exams and deadlines as it can be easy to forget.
Organise all your clinic appointments in advance so that you do not waste any clinical time and potentially miss out on your targets.
The same goes for exams, you want to start compiling and revising your notes early on so they become part of your long term memory.
Tip 2: it is not all about your hands
Dentistry is not just about drilling and filling.
Your communication skills
, professionalism and work ethic play a massive role in determining your success.
It is essential to develop these areas as when it comes to interviews and clinical exams, these are key things you will be assessed on.
Being a team player and a leader are key attributes for a dentist and you can build these qualities by actively engaging in extracurricular activities.
There are several books and courses on developing communication and professionalism skills.
Furthermore, one of the best ways to guide your development is to get feedback from your tutors and peers.
Tip 3: build up your CV
Having your BDS is great, however at the end of five years the rest of your cohort will also have it. So you need to set yourself apart from the others.
A great way of doing this is by getting involved in clinical research your tutors may be doing.
Carrying out clinical audits and participating in community engagement activities also reflect well on your CV.
Several competitions are available to participate in such as the SAAD Dental Students Essay Prize and the RCSEd Dentsply Sirona Dental Skills Competition and the BDA helps facilitate some student awards
Furthermore, getting an article published in a reputable journal for example the BDJ portfolio would also add to your CV – some helpful advice on how to get published here.
Tip 4: plan for after dental school
As you approach your finals years at dental school it is important to think, what’s next? It is easy to get extremely focused on your curriculum and forget about the next stage.
Dental foundation interviews and exams run alongside final year, so you want to start preparing in advance.
Furthermore, I would advise everyone to get as much clinical exposure as possible, so you can figure out what interests you the most.
If you are planning to sit postgraduate exams like MFDS/MJDF exams or training courses it is always good to ask senior students and tutors for their advice.
Tip 5: look after yourself
We all knew before getting into dental school that it would be hard. However, it is important to enjoy yourself and appropriately manage the stress that comes with the course.
Over the five years not only will you become a professional, you will grow as a person.
So, it is important to focus on your emotional and physical wellbeing as well. It is relatively easy to 'burn out' over time, therefore you should always keep a healthy work and personal life balance.
Find ways that help you relax and engage in non-dental activities in your spare time.
Remember, it’s not a race to the finish line, it’s about the journey, so buckle up and enjoy the ride!
I hope you found this post useful. For any questions or further help feel free to contact me.
Sidra Ahmed Suleman
Fifth year dental student at Plymouth University
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