Managing holidays from dental school

Third year BDS student at the University of Birmingham and CGDent NextGen Ambassador, Christy Ng, offers advice on getting the most out of your holidays whilst at university.

Although dental school is fun and exciting, it is no secret that there are many challenges too – compared to other university courses, we often have longer terms and shorter holidays. When we finally approach the end of term, whilst tempting not to do anything during the break, it is best to plan in advance and make the most of the few weeks off. I have put together some tips to help you make full use of the holidays, ensure you relax and have fun whilst also using the time to support your university studies.

  1. Plan ahead with fun activities

    Thinking ahead and organising things to look forward to, can act as great motivation to work hard through the last weeks of term. With busy timetables, it can be easy to fall out of touch with your friends and family. Whether planning simple activities such as going for a walk or coffee, or even exploring another country together, these can be good ways to catch up and reconnect. Without a rough plan, the days can easily merge into each other, and the holiday passes more quickly than you think!
  1. Keep up good habits

    Whilst relaxing during the holiday, it is beneficial to maintain any healthy habits you develop at university – whether it be weekly runs, yoga classes or even daily meditation. As Dentistry can be a stressful degree, having methods to destress and unwind can be invaluable, and keeping these up, can provide structure to your day and will not seem like a chore once term begins again.
  1. Try something new

    With extra free time, the holidays can be a great time to try something different. Being in a different environment outside the ‘dentistry bubble’ can be refreshing, and enables you to strengthen essential skills such as communication and teamwork. You could join a local sports club, pick up a new hobby or find a holiday volunteer/job role.
  1. Review and reflect

    Reviewing does not mean having to revise every lecture and clinical term, as it is important to take a break! With high-paced learning and constant absorption of information, taking some time during the holiday to reflect on what you have learned and how much you have progressed can be a fulfilling experience. It is also a useful opportunity for you to make a ‘to-do list’ identifying any new targets (academic or social) and things you want to look over. This helps to streamline focus and separate into manageable targets, which you can gradually make a start on in the holiday if you would like to.
  1. And if you have upcoming exams

    Aside from on clinic, effective time management is a valuable quality especially if exams are nearby. Creating a revision timetable which splits the modules into chunks can be an effective way to ensure you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Split the day into rough segments, write daily manageable goals, and plan time to wind down and rest in between – for example, simply going out for lunch with your friends or learning to cook a nutritious meal. Remember, you will work more productively if you take breaks throughout the day.

There are so many possible things to do during the holidays – use this time to boost your energy and motivation during term. That’s why it is important to try planning ahead to utilise your free time, but remember no matter what you do during the break, make sure to prioritise your well-being and have a well-deserved rest!

Author bio

“I am currently in my third year studying Dentistry at the University of Birmingham. Now having started the clinical years, I have particularly enjoyed seeing my own patients and look forward to exploring new specialties – so far, I find restorative dentistry and oral surgery most interesting. In my spare time, I enjoy sewing and playing badminton.”

Christy Ng

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How to get the most out of your Foundation Training

Foundation Dentist and CGDent NextGen Ambassador, Dr Choudhury Rahman, describes his experience transitioning from undergraduate studies to Foundation Dental Training, along with tips on how to make this change smoother and get the most out of the year!

As I sat down waiting for my first patient as a qualified dentist, I debated how to introduce myself. Dr Rahman, or just Choudhury? I felt the same nerves I did when I saw my first patient as an undergrad, a sense of imposter syndrome. Am I really a dentist now?

When I think back to this time last year, running up to finals, wishing it would be over with, I never thought I would have learnt as much as I have now, in just a few months of FD training. Nothing quite prepares you for general practice.

The pace at which you learn and develop is unbelievable. From seeing three patients a day in the undergrad clinic to 20-30 in general practices, along with vast quantities of treatment. When people tell you that you’ll do more treatment in a month of FD vs the whole of undergrad, they aren’t joking.

Of course, the experience you get will depend on where you work. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an area of high needs like mine in Rochdale, you will get bags of treatment – lots of caries, restorations, extractions, and root canals. However, you may also work in an area where you can do more aesthetic work, or somewhere with great oral surgery experience.

Here are my tips on how to make the transition smoother and get the most out of your FD year:

  1. Spend time making good treatment plans

    Sit down with your Educational Supervisor (ES), discuss cases with them, and get help with deciding what treatment to do. This will be your biggest learning curve, deciding independently what treatment to do and when. The more experience you get doing this, the better you will be at planning by yourself over time. Remember, you don’t have to make it at your initial appointment, you can always bring the patient back for this.
  1. Don’t worry about how long you need for treatments

    Want to spend three hours doing a molar endo? Or two hours on some posterior composites? Do it. FD year is when you get the chance to spend as long as you want on the treatments you want to do. You aren’t paid by Units of Dental Activity (UDAs), you’re paid a fixed salary. Use the time you have to provide good, high-quality treatment, and then you can focus on building speed towards the later stages.
  1. Push yourself with complex treatments

    You will have the support of an Educational Supervisor by your side throughout the year. They are there to help you and guide you. Take on that difficult molar endo, and plan for that surgical extraction. It’s your one year where you have help at every step of the way if you need it.
  1. Build a good relationship with everyone at your practice

    From the receptionist, the practice principal, and of course, your nurses. If you build a good bond with your team, and look after them, they will look after you!

Overall it’s been a tremendous experience. I have been very fortunate to have an amazing practice and a supportive ES. FD training is a unique and enjoyable experience. You can practice all the things in dentistry you love, not worry about UDA targets or lab bills, and push yourself with challenging cases knowing someone has your back. But one thing is for sure, you will get out what you put into this year. If you put in 100%, you will get so much out of your FD year.

One last thing I recommend is to become a member of the College of General Dentistry. I’ve been told by many colleagues, at this stage of your career, the world is your oyster. It can be difficult to navigate and work out exactly what you want to do. Should I do Dental Core Training (DCT)? Is MFDS really worth it? What postgrad training course should I enrol for? These are all questions a mentor will help you answer when you enrol on their Certified Membership Scheme, which is crucial at this stage of your career.

Author bio

“I Graduated from University of Manchester in 2023 and am currently doing my FD Training in the Greater Manchester North Scheme. I’m also a NextGen Ambassador for the College of General Dentistry. My clinical interests include Oral Surgery and Prosthodontics. I aspire to become a well rounded GDP, able to provide full mouth rehabilitation including placement and restoration of implants. Outside of work, I enjoy running and 5-a-side football.”

Dr Choudhury Rahman

Using self-directed learning at dental school

Second year Dental Therapy and Hygiene student at the University of Portsmouth, Modupe Ilesanmi, advocates using self-directed learning to improve your performance at dental school.

What is self-directed learning?

Self-directed learning (SDL) is an approach to taking responsibility for acquiring knowledge on a particular subject matter in order to become proficient in that area.  In a didactic teaching method, the learner often takes on a passive role of receiving information. However, in a clinical environment such as dentistry, a student is presented with a variety of unique cases that raise questions on content learnt, so a didactic teaching method alone is not sufficient.  For instance, you could have a patient present with an unfamiliar case and you are expected to find appropriate resources that support your clinical judgement. Another example is where you venture on an in-depth learning journey on a topic of interest.

SDL initiates and shifts the student’s learning experience from a passive state to a state of autonomy, thereby providing room for learners to take the lead on their own learning experience. The academic then takes on the role of a facilitator and motivator rather than instructor.  Consequently, your learning ability and confidence as a student is enhanced.

What I’ve gained by using self-directed learning

Through self-directed learning, I’ve gained control over my academic trajectory. SDL allows me to dictate my educational needs and customise my learning schedule according to my preferences. With the flexibility to decide what, when, and how I learn, I’m able to progress at my own pace. In addition, I can hone my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It enables me to analyse evidence and draw independent conclusions, skills essential for academic excellence and lifelong learning. Furthermore, SDL empowers me to set goals, manage my time effectively, and assess my progress. These self-regulation abilities not only enhance my academic performance but also serve as a valuable asset in advancing my career.

How to navigate self-directed learning in dental school

  1. Identify your learning needs

    The ability to apply the knowledge you have obtained is crucial in dentistry. In order to achieve this, thoroughly understanding the subject is vital. To understand a topic you must identify your knowledge gaps. To do this you have to be true to yourself. Write down everything you know about the topic then proceed to using resources such as lecture slides or textbooks to supplement what you know. This will eventually advance your proficiency in the subject matter. Knowledge gaps can also be identified through reflection on your performance and feedback from lecturers or peers.
  1. Determine the learning outcomes

    It is important to understand the objective of any particular learning. How is this going to help me as a student? The learning objective answers the question “why am I learning this?” Learning objectives also keep you on track. Set a number of questions around the subject matter that you should be able to understand by the end of the study.
  1. Gather a variety of sources for identified topics

    Depending on what you study, there are various resources you can use to gather the relevant information. For instance: protocols, guidelines, textbooks, evidence-based research. Knowing what type of resource you need is relevant to identifying the right information and will help you achieve your learning objective efficiently. An understanding of what each resource is and how to apply them is key.
  1. Narrow everything down to key points

    Narrow everything you found on the subject at hand to key points based on the learning objectives. Going back to your learning needs will help to keep you on track and not go off on a tangent.
  1. Retain the information

    An evidence-based method for retention is active recall and space repetition. Information that is not revisited will be eventually forgotten, whereas information that is consistently actively revisited, will be retained for a longer period of time. Try asking yourself questions about what you have learnt at different intervals. 

Top tips: in order to stay motivated, always remember the reason you are embarking on this study. Remember how this will help you be a better clinician in the long run. Be accountable to someone who will keep you in check. For dental students, developing a self-directed learning approach at university will be valuable throughout your career, especially for your continuing professional development.

Author bio

“I am a second year Dental Therapy and Hygiene student at the University of Portsmouth. I am keen on restorative dentistry. My hobbies outside of dental school are swimming and playing the piano.”

Modupe Ilesanmi

10 Top tips for starting your clinical placement

Fifth year BDS student at the University of Plymouth, Sona Dave, passes on her advice for a successful clinical placement.

The transition from non-clinical to clinical in Dentistry is a huge step-up, regardless of where you attend University. I have written this brief but jam-packed guide as I wish someone had given me tips before I started clinic/placement.

Starting to treat patients is a massive step-up from practicing on phantom heads and learning theory. Getting ready to start placement may seem overwhelming initially but remember to take the days as they come and to see each clinical session as a new opportunity to learn and grow.

I hope these tips can help you dive into your clinical career at university. Good luck!

  1. Look after yourself
    This is the best tip I have for any dental student.  Clinical days are very rewarding however they are also taxing mentally. In order to look after patients, you need to look after yourself.

    So, make sure that you are eating three healthy meals a day if possible, getting regular movement through physical exercise and practicing good sleep hygiene to ensure you are able to show up to placement as your most rested self. Some people find habit trackers helpful and others don’t, find out what works best for you and keep trying your best!
  1. Get on top of your time management
    Time management within Dentistry is key to ensuring a healthy work-life balance. Focusing on your degree is important for your future but you also need to prioritize your wellbeing and hobbies to ensure you don’t get burnout. Finding a balance will undeniably be an ongoing process with ebbs and flows so try to pace yourself through it. On way you could achieve this is by having a weekly diary with your top clinical / academic prioritises listed as well as a couple of fun activities to look forward to.
  1. Learn how to treatment plan correctly
    Treatment planning lies at the heart of everything we do. Ensure you follow a clear structure to your treatment planning and consent your patients properly by explaining the risks, benefits and alternatives to procedures.

    Evidence-based national guidance should inform and support your treatment plans.
  1. Get familiar with national guidelines
    This goes hand-in-hand with the above tip. Your life on placement and in dentistry in general, centres around evidence and guidance that helps us make informed clinical decisions.

    Popular national guidance includes but is not limited to:

    – College of General Dentistry (CGDent) – standards and guidance
    – – Delivering Better Oral Health
    – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – Clinical Knowledge Summaries
    – NHS England – HTM-01-05 – Decontamination in primary care dental practices
    – Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SECEP) – Guidance

    Tip – if you become a member of CGDent, you can download their standards and guidance to your device so they’re always on hand when you need them. You can join as a Student Member for £11.
  1. Make a reference guide for placement
    Doing this will make your life so much easier on your clinical days. A resource could be something like a Word Document, OneNote, notebook with handwritten notes or a file with printouts. It may be worthwhile to include guides for procedures you have learnt so far at university. They will act as a useful reference if you find yourself attempting a new procedure in clinic.
  1. Make clinical templates
    Making templates that you can transfer over to your dental notes system for things such as new patient exams, recalls, extractions and fillings will save you a lot of time during your day. It increases your efficiency during appointments making sure you don’t feel rushed.
  1. Keep track of the procedures you do and reflect on them
    Despite sometimes feeling like an arduous task, reflection is perhaps one of the most useful tools we have in Dentistry. It gives us the benefit of hindsight to improve our clinical practice. I would recommend attempting to record the procedures you are able to complete on placement and give a brief description of how the procedure went and a short reflection. This could be at the end of the day where you have a spare few minutes. In the long run, it will help you become the best clinician you can be.
  1. Make good use of your free time on placement
    If you happen to have a patient cancellation, do not just leave to go home. I know it may seem tempting and very easy to do but in the long run it is better if you try to use this time wisely. You could fill this time in by practising on one of your phantom heads if possible, or alternatively you could pick the brains of your supervisors and ask them about one of your interesting cases or if they have any tips.
  1. Start learning the importance of clinical photographs
    Clinical photographs are immensely useful in our careers. Whether it’s to show patients before and after pictures, to keep a record of your own portfolio or to send off intra-oral pictures for referrals, they are paramount to our everyday practice.

    Taking good pictures is a skill that is built upon over time. However, the earlier you start the better you will be by the time you graduate. It’s always worthwhile asking your supervisors on any tips and tricks they may have to capture the best shots of your clinical work. Read the blog ‘Why taking photos is an essential skill in dentistry’ for some useful advice.
  1. Dental school is a journey
    Understand that your time at university is a journey and not a competition. Your job as a student is to do better than you did yesterday. It is easy to get swept up in the motions and start comparing yourself to others, but this is not productive nor helpful to you or others. So, remember to do your best, be kind and try to help your fellow students where you can.

Author bio

“I am in Year 5 of the BDS at the University of Plymouth. My particular areas of interest in dentistry are oral surgery, dental public health and special care dentistry. When I’m not studying, I practice yoga and like reading and running.”

Sona Dave

Working with your clinical partner

Both in the fourth year of the BDS at the University of Plymouth, Dilan Patel and Alan Al-Zahawi share their advice on effective teamwork during clinics.

A guide to effective teamwork in clinics

What is the importance of working as an effective team?

The importance of effective teamwork is not limited to qualified dental practitioners. As students it is important to remember that we have a duty of care towards our patients and without an effective team, we may jeopardise the quality of treatment that we provide. Successful teamwork enhances patient care, safety, satisfaction, promotes efficiency, and allows dentists to provide comprehensive services while adhering to professional standards and regulations.

Steps to take in clinic to ensure effective teamwork

  1. Plan. At the beginning of the day, have a 5 minute brief with your partner outlining the day ahead. This will give you a good opportunity to plan for each appointment, prepare your station, and familiarise yourself with each other’s patients. This will greatly aid your time management and therefore ensure a more efficient use of the limited time you have with your patients.
  1. Mistakes get made. Your partner may be late, may forget certain instruments or be a bit slow with assisting during the appointment, but you must remember that they are not a trained nurse and are learning at the same time as you. By setting unrealistic expectations you will hinder the efficacy of your team. Both you and your partner must take ownership of your mistakes, learn from them and support each other to ensure they do not happen again.
  1. Maintain confidence. Your partner may be struggling or having difficulties with the treatment they are providing for the patient. It is imperative that you do not undermine them or say something that could affect the patient’s confidence in their abilities. If you feel like there is something important they have missed, then it would be better to have the discussion in a discrete manner or in private.
  1. Be encouraging. At dental school we are often faced with procedures that are new to us which can sometimes be nerve-wracking. Encouraging your partner and keeping their morale high can be of great help in boosting their confidence and keeping a positive mindset going in to the appointment. A confident and motivated clinical partner is more likely to provide high-quality patient care. This, in turn, leads to increased patient satisfaction and engagement.
  1. Reflect. At the end of the day it can be extremely valuable to have a debrief regarding the positives and negatives of the day. This is a good time to reflect on what went well and what can be improved upon in the future. Reflection is a powerful tool which when done regularly can help you develop your skills, improve your patient care and maintain a high standard of practice. This is achieved through identifying weaknesses and setting SMART goals.


The steps outlined above are not exclusive to dental school. They are transferrable to practice and even to every day life. Dentistry is an ever-changing field of study which inevitably comes with its many challenges. Effective teamwork guided by the principles of planning, support, confidence, encouragement and reflection, can be pivotal in ensuring the well-being of our patients and our success as current students and future dental practitioners.

Author bio

Dilan Patel

“I am currently in my fourth year at Peninsula Dental School. Since we began seeing patients in our first year I have had the opportunity to see a variety of cases and learnt a great deal throughout this time. I thoroughly enjoy seeing the patient satisfaction that can be achieved through treatment and have developed a great interest in Oral Surgery and Regenerative Dentistry which I would like to pursue in the future.

“Outside of dental school I spend my time travelling, playing golf and playing the saxophone which helps me find a balance between university and my own time.”

Alan Al-Zahawi

“I am currently in my fourth year at Peninsula Dental School based in Plymouth and the southwest region. In fourth year, we all live in Truro (the only city in Cornwall), where we see patients three times a week at a dental educational facility based at The Royal Cornwall Hospital. I have really enjoyed the increase in clinical time this year, especially the higher volume of prosthodontic work we are carrying out.

“My hobbies outside of dental school include exploring the beaches around Cornwall and playing golf if the weather permits.”

Tips for a successful first year at dental school

Sana Hussain, second year BDS student at King’s College London, describes how she made the most of her first year at dental school.

Starting the first year of dental school comes with a mixture of emotions – excitement, anticipation, enthusiasm – and it is completely normal to also feel slightly overwhelmed. I have recently finished my first year and have learned many tips about enjoying life at dental school, that I wish I had known earlier.

Time management at dental school will be the biggest determinator of both your success and how much fun you have. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of allowing studying to take over your day-to-day life, so it’s important to balance this. Despite what other people may tell you, dental school isn’t only about lectures and studying.

Schedule down time

My first piece of advice would be to schedule down time. This can look different for everyone; it could be a few hours a week for sports, or any activity that relaxes you. Ensuring you have a few hours a week to do this activity means you feel ready for the next week of learning. I joined a netball team where I have made many great friendships and met so many new people. I found it was a great way for me to unwind and do something I really enjoyed.

Keep a to-do list

Having a to-do list can be extremely helpful as it allows you to stay on top of lectures. It can become so easy to end up with a never-ending list of lectures if you leave them to the last minute, so make sure you do them as you go along the academic year. Consistency is the goal. Doing a little often means you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. By having a to-do list, you have a clear idea of how many lectures need to be done and how long they will take. By the time your end of year examinations come around, you hopefully won’t feel the stress of cramming and can avoid any unnecessary panic.

Join a society

During dental school, you will meet so many new people and have lots of new experiences. A great way to meet new people is through societies. Universities offer a wide range of societies that focus on all sorts of areas such as sports, world food, or the creative arts, so try to join the societies that interest you. There is probably a society for any hobby you already have, no matter how unique. And of course, societies are a fantastic way to pursue new interests, in things you might have not even heard of before.

Experiment with study techniques

The last thing I’d like to mention is studying techniques. It might be a while until you truly figure out what works best for you, whether that’s flashcards or mind maps. There’s no specific way to revise and you might find that a mixture of different ways of revising works best for you. It might also be the case that the way you have previously revised no longer works for you anymore and that’s completely okay. It took me a few months to find what worked best for me and even now, I still try to change some aspects of my revision. Don’t feel pressured into thinking there is a set time by which you have to know what works well for you.

Consider joining a study group

Study groups are another good way to revise. I found learning and going over content with others consolidated what I knew and highlighted the topics I didn’t. This way I was able to target my revision more effectively.

Many people forget that although part of life at dental school is revision and studying, it is not the entirety of your experience. If you only take away one piece of advice from this blog, please remember to enjoy dental school and make time to do the things you love the most.

Author bio

“I am currently in my second year of dentistry at Kings College London. Since I have only just finished my first year, I am keen to learn more about all the different specialities that dentistry offers. Outside of dental school, I enjoy playing netball and tennis in my spare time. I am also a huge fan of trying new foods and cuisines, always searching for the best new restaurant.”

Sana Hussain

This student advice blog was published in September 2022.

Getting back to dentistry

Hamna Khan, fifth year BDS Student, University of Manchester, gives you her tips for a successful new academic year after an extended break from clinical practice.

It’s that time of year again for us to buy our planners, top up our stationery and wipe the dust off our clinic shoes! Only this time, things are going to be a little bit different. It’s completely normal to feel anxious or nervous about the upcoming academic year, so here are some tips on how to settle back into the operator chair and kick-start your studying.

Online teaching

Without a doubt, this will be the new normal and adjusting to this style is vital. You will need to learn to adapt to online teaching, so get to know your new virtual tools. Our future studies are expected to be this hybrid-learning model so embracing this as soon as possible will boost your chances of success. Whether sitting in a cafe or at your bedroom desk is how you work best, meshing your ideal study surroundings with your university teaching this year is how you will engage and absorb the most information. 

Reviewing theory

Not having the time won’t be an acceptable excuse this year so if you haven’t already, start looking back at previous years’ notes. Brush up on those topics you don’t feel as confident in and know procedures inside out so there’s no time to waste when faced with one. 


Whilst extra reading was important before to complement your studies, reading recent articles now is more valued than ever. It’s key to stay up to date with the latest Covid-19 guidelines and the pandemic’s ever evolving impact on Dentistry as a profession. Regardless of your year of study, Covid-19 will have changed aspects of your degree and it’s good to know how and why. The FGDP website and various social media channels prove to be great resources to help with this.  

Use your time wisely

Being back at University will definitely mean life’s on the go again but you will almost certainly still have spare time and many hours off campus. Planning in advance and time boxing will help you maintain focus on your studies. Also, breaking up your work into smaller chunks can help you adjust back to life as a dental student. Aside from your dental learning, it’s essential to stay productive and not slip back into the laid-back routine many of us will be familiar with after having so many months away. Pencilling in regular physical activity to stay fit or volunteer work where help is needed are just a couple of the many things you can do. 

Pace yourself

Many of us will be eager to get back into the thick of things but just know it’s okay to not get that alginate impression first time like you used to be able to do! It would be ideal to continue from where you left off but we’ve all missed out on clinical experience and we’ve all been away from the drill just as long as each other. You may need to do some extra practice to get rid of your rustiness, but don’t be too hard on yourself because before you know it you’ll have bounced back! 

Find your support system

Dentistry can be challenging as it is and confiding and leaning on others is something that is part and parcel with the degree. During these unprecedented times, spending quality time with friends and family or anyone who you feel uplifts and encourages you will support you in your journey and enable you to carry on. Although our University experience is likely to be different to last year, it is still important to embrace student life as much as possible, either in person – respecting the relevant Government guidelines, or virtually. Engaging in the campus community remains a powerful and long-lasting benefit of these five years at University.

I hope this helped you feel more at ease and good luck with the year!

Author bio

I am currently in my final year of Dentistry at the University of Manchester. Over the past four years, I’ve gained insight into a variety of different fields and look forward to expanding my understanding in order to find the path best suited to me. I enjoy building rapports with patients and improving their quality of life through dental care.

Outside of University, I spend time with my family and friends and enjoy travelling abroad but also exploring the scenic places the UK has to offer!

Hamna Khan

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in October 2020 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.

Mannequins to mania

Aavan K Matharu, fourth year BDS student, Trinity College Dublin, gives her key pointers for a smooth transition to your clinical study years.


The transition from pre-clinical years to clinical years is one that many dental students look forward to. It becomes a momentous occasion where we can apply all the theory and practical skills, we have learned from the mannequin lab to actual patients and clinical situations. However, this overwhelming realization comes with its demands and challenges. As I reflect on my own experience, there is no doubt that I have learned a great deal not only about myself and how to make my clinical experience fulfilling but also how to tackle these challenges.  

To help you achieve a smooth transition, here are a few pointers I have put together to tackle the clinical years to come.

Bracing the Clinical Experience:

1.Dive deep: As we start clinics, it is normal to experience nerves and opt for simpler procedures. However, delving deeper and putting yourself in clinical scenarios within limitations, which test your knowledge, confidence, and clinical skills, are critical to your development early on as a student. It is important to encourage your learning and try to make the most of dental school while you are there as clinical time is already so limited due to the pandemic.

2. The Plus 2 Rule: Attempt to do procedures at least twice or more during your clinical years. Chances are that when you do a procedure for the first time, you will make mistakes and learn a lot from it. However, when you do the same procedure, for a second time on a different patient, you will be faced with other challenges and essentially a different way to apply your knowledge. Although this can be challenging depending on the amount of time you are given for clinics, try your level best to achieve this as it will teach you resilience and problem solving earlier on.

Pre-Clinical Advice:

  1. Know the why to a procedure: When creating a treatment plan/preparing for a procedure such as a composite filling or root canal, it is critical to know WHY you are doing it. Understanding the importance and order of what you are doing creates confidence and allows you to reflect on the benefits/risks of the procedure as well as the ethical reasoning behind what you are doing for the patient.
  2. Ask a friend lifeline: Discussing topics with friends/upper years beforehand can be very helpful. See what your friends have done, what their process was in doing the procedure, stressful parts, etc. Discuss how they communicated with patients, common mistakes, and how they organized themselves to get a better understanding of what to expect and how you can learn from their experiences to ameliorate your own. 
  3. Keeping an orderly fashion: One of the most helpful things I learned was to organize my instruments in the order I was going to use them. This can really help in stressful times when you don’t want to be looking around for instruments and materials but are rather using them as you go along.
  4. Stick to the essentials: It is important to understand which instruments can be filtered out during a procedure. During a composite filling, for example, there is no need to have the entire operative kit laid out.  Instead, narrow down the essential instruments to items such as a mirror, contra-angle sickle probe, flat plastic, and micro brushes, etc. This will create more space on your bracket table and will reduce the overwhelming feeling when looking for instruments.

I hope these tips/tricks are useful to you during your exciting progression into clinical years. Remember to embrace your transition kindly and to focus on yourself as a growing clinician. All the best!

Author bio

“I am a fourth-year dental student presently attending Trinity College Dublin. Over the past three years, I have developed a keen interest in Endodontics and Restorative Dentistry. With one year of dental school remaining, I would love to be able to expand my knowledge in regards to what these fields offer by performing research with specialists and attending relevant conferences.

Apart from dentistry, I enjoy drawing/sketching and immersing myself in astronomy and cosmology. I also adore traveling and visiting multiple countries within four different continents has given me the opportunity to appreciate new cultures, food, and languages.”

Aavan K Matharu

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in August 2020 and updated in May 2021, and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.

From rubber dam isolations to social isolation: a dental student’s perspective

Angela Li, first year MChD student at the University of Leeds, shares advice on successful online learning from home.

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic is having a large effect on dental student life, impacting on our studies, social life and wellbeing.

I spent the first few weeks worried and unproductive, not knowing what tomorrow could bring and constantly being bombarded with news updates and anxious messages from fellow students. We were worried about missing clinical experience, unsure about whether to go home or remain in university accommodation and wondering if summer exams would be cancelled. Around the same time as all of this, we also received our February exam results – some students had the added stress of resits and hoping they could still progress to next year.

Unlike students on most other courses, non-final year dental students are still waiting to hear if and how exams will still take place. This seems bothersome but makes sense when we remember our clinical responsibility and professional accreditation requirements. It is tempting to delay revision until further exam clarification is given, but this may only increase future stress, since we will need to learn the material sooner or later. As the next generation of dentists, we should study not only for the sake of exams, but for our own clinical competency and most importantly, for our patients.

Universities have migrated to online learning, and although this allows for greater learning flexibility, it is much easier to get distracted at home and lose our sense of routine. Many of us are accustomed to revising in the library with fewer disturbances and structuring our day around attending lectures and other activities. It has taken time to adjust my learning habits, but I have found these changes beneficial in terms of improving my mindset and productivity.

Here are a couple of my top tips to help you make the most of your home learning:

1) Be organised
Creating a to-do list is a great way of organising your tasks. I also find it useful to assign specific tasks to each section of the day (early/later morning, afternoon and evening), rather than to rigid time slots, allowing you to organise each section in your day as you go along. Setting up a distraction-free work zone at home is a key part in allowing for focused work, and I find productivity apps that use the pomodoro technique particularly effective.

2) Be proactive!
I’ve recently discovered a world of online dental webinars and Instagram live sessions led by top clinicians. Topics range from digital dentistry to facial aesthetics and from implants to biomimetics, which are highly exciting areas often not taught at undergraduate level. For webinars, I recommend signing up for the ‘Lockdown 2020’ series organised by Dr Clive Schmulian and the weekly Smile Dental Academy webinars. These can encourage the discovery of new interests within the field of dentistry and significantly helps to increase motivation.

In these uncertain times, it’s important to not get overwhelmed by all the changes around us. Instead, we would benefit from using this time as an opportunity for learning, personal growth, and setting goals for our next academic year. Before we know it, we’ll be back in dental school fitting rubber dams to phantom heads in no time.

Author bio

I am currently a first year MChD student and dental year representative at the University of Leeds. Through my experiences so far, I have developed an interest in Restorative Dentistry, and I would like to explore this area further through undertaking work shadowing, attending courses and getting involved with academia. Following graduation, I would like to gain experience as a Dental Core Trainee.

In my free time, I enjoy playing badminton, hiking and travelling.

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in July 2020 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.

Experience working in different care settings boosts confidence

Dr Harriet Jones reflects on how a varied early career in secondary and tertiary care settings has given her increased confidence in her work as a primary care dentist.

Having graduated from Newcastle in 2016 I carried out Foundation training in a small mixed private and NHS practice. Following this I worked as a Dental Core Trainee in the speciality of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. I am now currently working part time as a Community Dental Officer and also in NHS practice.

I think gaining an experience in a wide range of areas of dentistry is essential. Having a dental degree opens up so many avenues and the number of career options available is vast. The start to my career has allowed me to experience dentistry in different settings and see a small section of the scope of dentistry.

Gaining experience working in secondary and tertiary care settings has given me increased confidence working in primary care. Working within practice it is inevitable that referrals will need to be made. Having experience working at the receiving end of referrals has increased my ability to refer appropriately. For example, Oral and Maxillofacial referrals can be sent with different grades of urgency and I feel I have an increased ability to understand the appropriate referral to make when I see a patient in general practice.

Working within different settings has also given me the opportunity to work with a variety of dental colleagues who have different interests and specialities. These links have enabled me to organise teaching events for general dental practitioners to maximise learning opportunities. Interacting with colleagues from a variety of specialities allows you to keep up to date with dental advances which is essential in the dental world. Overall, I think this has had a beneficial effect on my ability to treat patients with varying needs. 

It is important when working in practice not to become isolated. I work in a large mixed NHS and private practice with a close group of dentists in a supportive environment. This allows us to comfortably discuss cases and gain advice where needed. On graduating and completing foundation training I still feel the need to gain a second opinion often and working within a supportive environment allows you to do this. I am the Secretary of our regional FGDP(UK) team which involves organising CPD events for dentists within our area. This allows me to meet local dentists and also with our speakers who work within different specialities. Attending Local Dental Committee meetings is also an excellent way to network with local dentists and have a voice regarding important matters and issues as part of a committee of dentists.

Dentistry is a very exciting career with so many possible avenues to take. I think it is important to embrace new opportunities and interact with dental colleagues in order to improve skills and maximise job satisfaction.

Author bio

I qualified from Newcastle in 2016 and gained my MJDF in 2018. I completed my Foundation training in general practice and then went on to work as a Dental Core Trainee in the speciality of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery. I now work in an NHS practice and am a part time Community Dental Officer

This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in March 2019 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.