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.

Two dentists, one award and 6,000 subscribers

Award-winning early-career dentist, Pouya Zohrabpour, features in the College’s new film and tells us about the innovative educational work he has been doing to support dental students and young dentists.

I remember the day I was studying with my friends for our final exams of dental school and we received an email saying that all our in-person exams have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 lockdown. This was right at the start of Covid. Being one of the Covid year graduates was a very odd experience and I never thought the start of my career would pan out the way it has. I am now a first-year associate dentist and have been lucky enough to start and work on many additional projects related to my dental work.

With my friend Dr Ali Gowie, I run a dental YouTube channel and Instagram account called Two Dentists. This was something we started during the lockdown as we both got bored of watching long one-hour webinars and wanted to create highly educational videos which were professional, concise and easy to understand. So much of dentistry can be complicated but we felt that if we did enough research, we could script videos and break down difficult concepts into bite-sized videos for young dentists and dental students.

Our first few videos, which have been some of the most popular on our channel, focused on the new patient examination. We have made videos on seeing your first patient as a dental student, best way to take a dental history, dental examination, essential diagnoses, radiology and treatment planning.

We have since expanded and released a variety of other videos such as our series on dental photography and Loupes, which have been very popular. After launching and committing to releasing one video every week, which we maintained for a full year, we have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback received from everyone. My proudest moment of our YouTube journey was when a friend of mine sent a photo of a lecturer at the University of Bristol (where I graduated) showing my radiology video to a group of final year students.

The Youtube channel has allowed us to collaborate with many dentists and be in a continual state of learning. We have been lucky to be able to collaborate with Dr Shivam Divani who is the creator of the My Dental Care App. The app aims to educate the general public on the importance of good oral hygiene and to show you how to protect your teeth and prevent dental issues. With Dr Divani we created a six-part video series which accompanies the text and images in the app. These videos have also been released publicly on our YouTube Channel.

My progress on the YouTube channel was one of the factors that led to me winning the FGDP Foundation Dentist of the Year last year – which I am extremely grateful for. I am now extremely proud to also be an Ambassador for the College and to fulfil my role in spreading awareness of the new Career Pathways to support young dentists like myself.

In my foundation training year, I had to decide if I wanted to do Dental Core Training or not. This decision was based on speaking to my friends and colleagues but I found it difficult to make a decision as everyone had different opinions and I was unsure of the pathway I wanted to go down. I am sure many others have been in this position and this is where I believe the new Careers Pathways programme can come in. As a young dentist, having a career pathway which has been mapped by a professional body and shows clear steps in progression gives me security in knowing that I am on the right path for me to expand my knowledge and become a better dentist. Whilst doing so, it’s great to know that my progression will be recognised by the College and I can work my way up to becoming an ‘accomplished practitioner’. I believe the Career Pathway will be a must-use programme for every young dentist who is currently in general practice looking for a structured pathway for continual professional development, enabling you to move forward and enhance your career with confidence.

We plan to launch the College’s Career Pathways in dentistry, underpinned by the Professional Framework, in June 2022. Look out for details in the June issue of our monthly newsletter – sign up to receive it.

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President discusses dental careers at No.10

On 29 March 2022, College President Dr Abhi Pal visited No.10 Downing Street to attend a roundtable breakfast meeting on access to careers and progression in dentistry hosted by the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on healthcare policy.

Dr Pal commented:

“It is great to see recognition at the top of government that widening access to dental training, followed by career progression based on merit and not hindered by inequalities, are vital in order to recruit and retain a workforce reflective of the population it serves and able to meet the UK’s oral health needs.

For its part, the College of General Dentistry is committed to breaking down unnecessarily prescriptive and exclusionary professional barriers, and is developing a Professional Framework with accompanying Career Pathways that will offer all general dental professionals staged recognition of their knowledge and skills, and a range of routes to planning a fulfilling career in dentistry.”

The College will shortly be hosting a related live webinar:

Social inequalities when applying to study dentistry
Monday 4 July 2022, 7pm
This will discuss social inequalities and how they may affect students when applying to study dentistry. It will be free to view for all dental professionals on the day, and the recording will be available thereafter to CGDent members. Approx. 1.5 CPD hours. CPD e-certificates are free for CGDent members. REGISTER HERE

Related webinar recordings already available to College members in the CPD library include:

Why colour is the elephant in the room
A first-hand exploration of racial inequality and prejudice, with real life experiences from colleagues working in all areas of dentistry, and highlighting ways in which we can tackle inequalities and systemic racism. “This webinar was so, so important and impactful”
Approx. 2 hours’ CPD.

How to get the best from your career in dentistry
This webinar looks at career and development planning no matter your career stage, and for the whole dental team, exploring next steps and what courses and opportunities are available. It also provides information on CGDent’s development of Career Pathways to give your dental career a boost. 2 hours 15 minutes’ CPD.



CGDent offers students e-learning package 

The College of General Dentistry has announced that it is offering dental students access to a leading dental e-learning package. 

Students who enrol as members of the new College now have access to a growing library of over 350 online training courses and webinar recordings, as well as regular live seminars, through the ProDental platform. ProDental CPD is the UK’s largest independent provider of dental e-learning, serving over 30,000 users with live and on-demand content on their desktop, tablet and mobile devices.  

Since its establishment last year as the successor to the Faculty of General Dental Practice, the College has been co-producing webinars with ProDental on subjects of interest to the general dental team, including the College’s guidance and standards publications, the themes explored in its quarterly Primary Dental Journal (PDJ), and events to support its emerging Career Pathways programme for dental professionals.  

To date, the College has offered access to these – as well as to ProDental’s 900 hours of additional content, GDC-compliant CPD certification of all learning undertaken, and a bespoke online personal development planning tool (e-PDP) – to its Associate Members, Full Members, Associate Fellows and Fellows from across the dental team.  

This access is now available to Student Members of the College. All those undertaking dental education and training in the UK prior to registration are eligible to join the College as Student Members, and a one-off fee of £10 gives membership until the completion of their pre-registration study.  

Student Members also get free or discounted access to CGDent events and study days, regular news and events listings from the College, and online access to the PDJ and PDJ Archive, a rich resource of over 1,300 clinical and professional articles from a journal uniquely dedicated to general dental practice.  

Dental students wishing to enjoy these benefits should visit https://cgdent.uk/join/  

Dr Abhi Pal, President of the College of General Dentistry, said:  

“One of the College’s key missions is to support dental professionals at all stages to progress in their careers. Our new offer for dental students will complement undergraduate studies while also enabling them to look beyond dental school and arrive armed and ready to succeed in the next phase of their professional lives.” 

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Practice ownership: an introduction

Recorded webinar. Thursday 20 January 2022, 7pm.

Organised in collaboration with The British Dental Students’ Association (BDSA), this webinar is for any dental professional, including students, who wishes to understand what owning a practice entails, the joys of “being your own boss”, how to prepare for practice ownership, and the pitfalls.

Owning a practice provides huge opportunities for working independently, building up an enterprise, and practising in a way that suits the individual. However it comes with significant responsibilities.

The topics we explore include how practice ownership fits into a GDP career pathway, different models of practice ownership and preparations you can make before embarking on this route.

Speakers:

  • Dr Abhi Pal, President CGDent
  • Susan Nelson, Council member at CGDent
  • Milan Chande, Dentist and National Clinical Manager, A&U Dental
  • Simon Hughes, Managing Director, Medical at Christie & Co
  • Jitesh Jassal, Final year dental student at King’s College London, President of the BDSA 2021-22 and Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of the BDA Student Committee

CGDent members and ProDental subscribers can claim CPD hours for free and have access to the webinar recording.  A £20 fee will apply for non-members/non-subscribers who wish to claim CPD.

This webinar is part of the partnership between the College of General Dentistry (CGDent) and ProDental CPD.

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals. Membership for dentists is available from £94, and for other registered dental professionals from £33. The full list of CGDent membership rates is at https://cgdent.uk/membership-fees/

You may be interested in our recent webinar How to get the best from your career in dentistry, which explores a range of career pathways open to dental professionals and discusses how the College’s Career Pathways can support your career.

Clinical reflections dissected

Aavan K Matharu, fourth year BDS student, Trinity College Dublin, shares her advice on writing an effective and meaningful clinical reflection.

As we treat patients in dental school, we begin the process of learning, growing, and understanding the importance of patient management and care. This process comprises of a unique experience, specific to each patient and individual, and essentially contributes to the development of a clinician. One of the most important things to keep in mind after assessing patients and completing their treatment is a reflection, of which many of us must complete for our portfolios during dental school. 

Carrying out a good clinical reflection becomes one of the many skills that are integral to the ongoing growth throughout one’s professional career. To help you understand the purpose of a reflection and how they are written, here are a few pointers I have put together to help you ace your portfolio or even help you deliberate on your clinical experiences.

  • What is the purpose of a reflection? 

The main idea behind a reflection is to understand what you did for the patient, why it was relevant, and what successes and challenges you had along the way. Each reflection is unique not only from a patient standpoint but also from a clinician’s perspective, and its importance lies in what you took away from the experience as a whole. When reflecting, think about how you felt during the procedure (was it stressful, was it rewarding), what you achieved, and what you struggled with or would change for next time. Giving yourself this opportunity allows you to better yourself, learn from your experiences, and overall, progress holistically as a growing clinical practitioner. 

  • Choosing a Model

Reflections can be structured using various types of models such as the DIEP model or the O’Driscoll model (what, so what, and now what). Most dental schools recommend these templates as it gives a reader/writer a simple, but well-rounded idea around what the reflection entails. As a student or clinician, the best way to choose a model is to select the one that best resonates with you and your thinking/writing style. This will help to guide your thought process while keeping your reflections on track and avoiding long, unnecessary essays. 

  • Avoid Explaining the Treatment

When writing a reflection, do not explain the entire treatment provided to the patient. Feel free to summarize the diagnosis and the treatment provided but do not describe how you performed the root canal, prepared a tooth for a crown prep, etc. Instead, explain how you had difficulties and successes while doing these procedures and how the procedures made you problem solve as a clinician. For example, if you completed a restoration, reflect on certain experiences (such as if the patient was nervous or had a limited mouth opening) and ask yourself questions like:   
–    How did you problem-solve?
–    How did you communicate?
–    Was there anything you did to make the patient more comfortable?
–    What could you have done that could have made the experience better for you and the patient?… and so on.

  • Make it Bespoke 

Some patients come with many challenges whereas others are simple and straightforward. One thing all your patients have in common is that they are all helping you grow as a clinician. So, when reflecting/writing about each experience, be unique and genuine in the way you critique how each patient tested you and helped you flourish. No two patients are the same, and the way you treat patients, communicate with them, and take care of them will always be slightly different. 

I hope these tips are useful to you during your portfolio write-up. Keep in mind that a reflection is all about how and why you did what you did but also what you could have done better from all aspects of the treatment. 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 June 2021 and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.

My experience of studying whilst managing a chronic illness

Shona Sawhney, fifth year BDS student, Barts and the London, explains how she has been studying for her degree whilst managing a chronic illness and shares her advice for anyone in a similar situation.

In my third year of dental school when my clinical experience was just beginning, I began to notice changes in my health. Over a period of 3 months, extreme fatigue and stiffness slowly progressed to severe joint pain. Not only was I struggling with exams and passing gateways, but even my day-to-day routine outside of university. 

The potential impact of my symptoms became apparent when I was told by a specialist, “You really need to think about another career.” I was devastated but this reaction from others would come to be the norm.  I had worked exceptionally hard to gain my place at dental school, and through a chronic illness over which I had no control, I felt my future plans slowly slip away.

Dentistry is an ever-changing profession, and whilst this can be exciting, it can also be incredibly stressful. For this reason, I always tried to ensure I had an outlet to relieve that stress, this was mainly through exercise. However, as my condition worsened, I struggled to maintain these outlets, I felt I had no way to relieve the stress I was under. 

When starting 4th year, I had been beaten by the suggestions of a “career change,” and that “dentistry isn’t for you anymore.” I accepted that I would be unable to do what my peers were doing. The thought of me completing my crowns gateway test that I had yet to sit, was almost laughable. I can honestly say that I have never felt more alone. 

Every time I entered the clinic, I would inform the tutors of my condition, which I found particularly hard. This is not what I wanted to be known for or defined by and feared I would yet again be told this profession is not for me. I was genuinely quite shocked when I was asked by a tutor in clinics one day, “What can we do to help you?”. I almost cried, I felt like an outsider to the profession for a long time, and I finally felt heard and listened to. 

This highlighted to me the importance of accessibility in dentistry, not just for our patients but also dental professionals. When seeking advice from a number of tutors and staff, I saw how the simplest of changes made a drastic impact on not only how I felt physically after clinics but also mentally too. For example, seeing oral surgery patients exclusively in the afternoon rather than the morning meant that my body and mind were prepared if I was required to perform an extraction. To quote the incredible Mohamed Jemni, I noticed that “The disability is not the problem, the accessibility is the problem.” (Jemni, 2013).

In hindsight, I now see just how hard I was being on myself. Initially, when my health condition deteriorated, I would force myself to do things even if I knew that my body was not physically up to performing the actions. And if I could not carry out the task, I got mad and angry at myself. It was a perpetual self-destructive cycle. Learning to celebrate the small victories and being kinder to myself has helped me manage my conditions, instead of belittling myself, and saying “you must pass this,” I instead say, “I am proud of you for trying your best.” 

I was often told that dentistry was not for me due to my condition, and this is not true in the slightest. There is a place for those with chronic illnesses to be key members of the dental community. My advice to those in a similar circumstance is to give yourself the same kindness you would give to others in your situation and do not be embarrassed to speak out and ask for help or adjustments to make dentistry more accessible. Lastly, to never give up on your aspirations despite what others may say, because to have a disability does not mean you miss ability; with the right support and adjustments, anything is attainable. 

Jemni, M., 2013. Breaking The Silence Of Deafness.

Shona was a speaker at the Disability Awareness in Dentistry webinar, organised following a shared commitment by the CGDent, FGDP and BDA to promote equality, diversity and inclusivity in the profession. A free recording of the webinar is available to CGDent members and ProDental subscribers and comes with one hour’s CPD (a £20 fee applies for non-members/non-subscribers).

Author bio

I am currently in my final year of Dentistry at Barts and the London. Within dental school I have enjoyed seeing patients from all different walks of life. I really enjoy talking to patients about their dental anxieties and building their confidence to visit the dentist regularly and improve their oral health, which has given me a future interest in community dentistry!

Outside of university life I run an Instagram page (@shocreates) to highlight my digital art related to chronic illness, and advocate for disability within dentistry. I also love to work out and try different cuisines around the world!

Shona Sawhney

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

My Situational Judgement Test from home

Katie Huane, fifth year BDS Student, University of Manchester, passes on her top tips for making the most of your time during self-isolation and keeping up with your peers.

In the run-up to the lockdown 2.0, my biggest worry was gym closures meaning I’d be back to jumping around doing HIIT workouts in my front room with my heaviest dumbbell weighing a measly 1.5kg. Little did I know I would be stuck in my house for the next 12 days, unable to go for walks outdoors, get a take-away Pret hot chocolate and worst of all, miss critical clinical time at the Dental Hospital. 

When I first got the notification from the NHS Track and Trace app, I was stunned. I racked my brain tirelessly to understand how and where I could’ve contacted someone with Coronavirus. Still to this day, I have no idea.  

In the coming week, I had planned an acrylic denture delivery, a crown fit, an oral surgery clinical skills session (practising raising flaps on pig heads!) and my DFT Situational Judgement Exam – a heavy week to say the least. 

I was initially frustrated at the prospect of missing all of these things and was worried about what it would mean for my progression as a dental student – getting sufficient patient contact on clinics is always a concern, especially as patients fear the hospital in the current climate. 

Having contacted the dental school regarding my isolation, I had to tackle the next task of how to sit my SJT exam from home (which would otherwise be sat at a Pearson Vue test centre). I had to fill out a reasonable adjustment form and hope for the best. 

Luckily I had two days until I was due to sit the exam. This exam was set to determine my rank out of all the graduating dentists in the UK and hence the place I would live and practice for my Dental Foundation Training for a whole year. It could be on my doorstep (Manchester) or it could be as far as the Isle of Man (no pressure). 

After a string of emails to and from the test centre, a software issue, a borrowed laptop and a full bookcase covered in plain-white bed sheets, I sat my 2.15pm SJT exam from home. 

It’s a long wait until we get the results (June 2021), so in the meantime I will be focusing on other aspects of Dental School, my fitness and most importantly…Christmas! 

Below I have outlined some tips for other dental students struggling with self-isolation and how to have a productive fortnight indoors. 

Top tips for self-isolation

1.    Mindset is key 

Overall, lockdown has been smooth-sailing for me and I believe I owe it to my positive attitude. Some things I told myself repeatedly were:  

•    You’ll be drilling and filling for the rest of your life – don’t panic over a couple of clinic sessions missed. 
•    These things happen for a reason, whether it’s to rest and recover or that you didn’t do enough baking and DIY in the first lockdown.
•    2 weeks off Uni doesn’t mean you won’t graduate!
•    You’ll look back at this period of your life when you are working a full time job and wish you made the most of the chance to stay in bed on frosty mornings!

2.    Keep yourself busy 

Some things that have kept me occupied include: 

•    Webinars (some of my top picks are the Dentinal Tubules Webinar series for dental students, Dentinet Student webinars, and Finlay Sutton’s denture series on YouTube). 
•    Writing/getting published – this is just one way you can enhance their professional profile as a dental student and pass some time during your isolation period.
•    Entering undergraduate essay competitions. 
•    Practice your manual dexterity in other ways – painting, carving teeth made from wax, etc. 
•    Catch up on lectures. 
•    Keep up-to-date with important documents on COVID-19 in dentistry to keep yourself and others safe. 

3.    Avoid social media 

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out. Throughout my isolation period, I’ve consciously put my phone away which not only makes me much more productive, but it also makes me feel 100x better for doing it too. You gain NOTHING from seeing your dental school peers on clinic treating patients and doing all the things you should be doing. Easier said than done but make sure you are limiting time spent on Instagram, Facebook and all other social media platforms. 

4.    Get moving 

Nothing sets me up for a more productive day than a workout at 8am and quick stretch after. Not only does it boost my mood but getting out of your desk chair does wonders for your back! 

5.    Routine 

Keeping a consistent morning and bedtime routine is key. Wake up, workout and eat breakfast all before you turn your phone on in the morning. Get in bed nice and early that evening, read a book and sleep. Repeat. 

Normality feels like a distant memory but I can’t wait to get back to the dental school to see some familiar faces, both patients and peers…5 days and counting!

Author bio

I’m currently a final year dental student at the University of Manchester. Over the past couple of years at dental school, I have discovered a particular interest in Paediatrics and Oral Surgery. I am also President of the Dentman Global Oral Health Forum, a volunteering society committed to providing oral care globally as well as within the local community. 

Outside of dentistry, I love experiencing new cultures and have an Instagram page dedicated to travel as well as university life (@flightsandfillings). I was lucky enough to spend two consecutive summers in New York working on a children’s summer camp as a swimming teacher. 

I’m also into fitness, and if I’m not in the dental hospital, you can probably find me in the gym!

Katie Huane

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

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. 

Articles

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.

Why taking photos is an essential skill in dentistry

Mohammed Ahsen Arshad and Ahmed Ahmed, fifth year BDS students at Plymouth University Dental School,  explain the importance of good photography skills in dentistry and how to get accurate and effective images.

Being able to take good photographs is key skill that dental care practitioners (DCP) must possess and develop, as it allows them to do a multitude of things including: 

  • keep an accurate record of patients’ presenting dentition
  • convey more information when referring to lab, especially helpful in anterior restorations 
  • provide a powerful diagnostic aid when treating and referring patients  
  • allows DCPs to illustrate the effectiveness of their treatment  
  • useful for auditing restorations especially when considering Aesthetics 
  • marketing clinical abilities as a dentist through social media and clinical articles.  

In dental school you will be provided with a camera and undergo some training but the best way to learn is to practice and get comfortable with the setup. Quite often this is the first time you will encounter a Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) and have to shoot manually. Learning to take photos in dental school will aid you in exit case presentations, and much more, and is an invaluable skill which you will carry throughout the rest of your career.

Consent  

Before you can take any photographs you must obtain valid consent and explain the purpose of the photographs. This could include recording wear, presentations, comparing shade after bleaching, educational purposes for illustrating soft tissue/hard tissue lesions. You must also inform the patient where these pictures may be used or posted. Photographs are often anonymized so patients need not worry about their confidentiality.  

Camera setup and settings 

In a standard setup you will need:

  • your camera body,
  • a macro lens (the larger the focal length the further away you can be from the patient whilst taking photos)
  • a ring flash.

Before you can make any adjustments you need to understand the basic function of each setting. As changing each one will lead to different results. 

Aperture is the size of the opening in which light passes through and is controlled via F values. 

Speed is how long the camera is open for this can be as little as 1/8000 seconds and as high as 30 seconds. 

ISO is sensitivity to light – as it increases the camera becomes more sensitive and can range from 100 to 6400. 

White balance is the process of removing unrealistic colour casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. It is best to set the camera to daylight or 5500k.  

Top tips  

Use a scratch free mirror and don’t let it fog up. You can achieve this by warming your mirror up under some warm water beforehand.  

Keep the focal length the same in before and after photos, in side-by-side comparisons this will look much better.  

Don’t be afraid to move the patient, yourself and the chair as positioning is key  

Communicate with the patient and your nurse   

Use small cheek retractors  

Eliminate debris and distractions (saliva, makeup and lipstick) 

Ask for advice – your supervisor will have much more experience than you, ask them to show you how to take the best photos and how they do it

Finally, practice on each other.

Recommended settings 

Extraoral:  

Exposure mode: M 

Aperture:F9 

Speed: 80 

ISO: 200 

Intraoral: 

Exposure mode: M 

Aperture: F22 

Speed: 200 

ISO: 200 

Recommended positions   

Front view 

  • Teeth should be in full contact 
  • Show as much gingivae as possible 
  • Midline of the face should be used as a vertical midline of the photo 
  • Position of the camera directly in front and 90 degrees to subject 

 Lateral view 

  • Contra-lateral central incisor and contralateral lateral incisor and canine should be visible.  
  • Centre the photo on lateral incisor/canine region 
  • Vertical midline of the photo should be the lateral incisor/canine 
  • The horizontal midline of the photo should be in the incisal plane. 

 Upper occlusal: 

  • Patient position: Fully reclined, take photographs from behind patient if possible. 
  • Always use mirrors or retractors if possible. 
  • The buccal contour of upper centrals should be visible near the edge of the photo. 
  • Frame the photo so mirror edges are as minimized as possible. 
  • 45 degrees to the mirror surface 
  • Show as many teeth as possible. 

Lower occlusal:  

  • Patient position: Slightly reclined and head tilted back. 
  • Always use mirrors and retractors if possible 
  • Eliminate fog on mirror, can be done by warming mirror up with hot water 
  • 45 degrees to the mirror surface 
  • Show as many teeth as you can 
  • Photo should show: Incisal edges of incisors and facial and lingual embrasures.  

Author bio

I am entering the final year of the BDS curriculum at Peninsula Dental School. I look forward to treating patients and further developing my skills as a clinician. I have found a particular interest in restorative dentistry, OMFS and oral surgery. 

Outside university, I like travelling and learning about different cultures, reading about anthropology, playing chess and enjoy sports such as cardiovascular endurance training, swimming, football and basketball. In the future I look forward to graduating and starting DFT in 2021.

Ahmed Ahmed

I am entering my final year of study this year at Plymouth university. I look forward to graduating and starting DFT in 2021. Whilst at university, I have found an interest in oral and maxillofacial surgery in particular head and neck cancer surgery. 

Outside of university, my hobbies include playing sports, travelling and photography. Last summer I went to Japan and discovered a new passion for baseball which I hope to pursue further.

Mohammed Ahsen Arshad

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