Before I started dental school I wondered what it was like to be a dental student. Do dental students have any free time? Do they have social lives? Is there time for health and fitness? Some of you may be asking if you will see your spouse or kids. Just how demanding is the school schedule?
The good news is, you will have enough time to do the things you care most about. However, you will be forced to prioritize and figure out what those things are. You probably won’t be able to do everything want to do, there simply isn’t enough time. This is one reason I post inconsistently on here unfortunately. And it’s why I am writing this class between classes after the previous class ended early.
A typical week for Midwestern dental students
Last year I wrote about a typical day in dental school for a D1 here at Midwestern. This year I planned to share one week of my class schedule as a D2, but then I decided that it might be more useful to share one week from all four classes. I can only comment on the D1 and D2 schedules, but I will also share the D3 and D4 schedules to give you an idea of what dental school is like.
You can see above that the D3 and D4 students have pretty open schedules. This is because they spend the vast majority of their time in the clinic treating patients. D1 and D2 is where the classroom magic happens at Midwestern.
The first year class
The fourth week is when D1 students are first introduced to composites. They prep and restore a #8 facial composite veneer. They also perform an endo access on #8. D1s are still working on their wax-ups and have a lot to do on Monday of week 4.
After their SIM day, they will be slogging through more basic sciences with 13 genetics-based lectures on cancers as well as pediatric and inherited diseases. It can be easy to forget why you are here as a first year student because so little time is spent on dentistry. Our school does give D1 students a full day in the simulation clinic each week as we saw earlier, and there are dental classes peppered in there like ethics and preventive dentistry.
The second year class
Us D2 students have a lot more simulation clinic on our schedule. We are in SIM clinic two or more full days each week. You can see from our schedule that week 4 includes composite veneer preps and restorations for #7, 8, 9, and #10. We will also be creating bite splints and brushing up on our articulator skills.
We have two exams during our 4th week, one for oral health sciences and the other for pharmacology. So, in the background we still have some basic science coursework, but we are focused on dentistry at this point.
A dizzying series of rotations
We also have rotations this year. From our schedule you can see that three groups are will do a few hours of community service. This involves traveling to local elementary schools and teaching K-6 students about oral hygiene.
Group 3 (my group) has a human behavior rotation during week 4 that is run by Gary Takacs. Groups 1 and 2 will be taking x-rays on their first radiology rotation.
Group 13 will attend morning case presentations with the oral surgery team and then rotate through the surgical suites to observe the oral surgeons and residents. Finally, group 14 will be visiting a local dental laboratory to see how dental prostheses are crafted.
On Wednesday, there are more rotations in the simulation clinic. Students from four different groups will spend four hours on either endo, implants, periodo, or CAD/CAM (crowns). On Friday, four more groups will do these same rotations. My group will rotate through endo that Friday.
And finally, some groups will rotate through the dental clinic. I wrote about my first and second clinical rotations last year. Both experiences were invaluable and I learn a lot every time I go. It is easy to forget in the simulation clinic that your patient has a tongue, bleeds, and hears everything you say.
Working after hours
I should also mention that we are now spending many hours outside of scheduled SIM time to work on projects. We are all very slow and our work is… well, it’s not good yet. At least mine isn’t. I know how much more I need to improve, which is important because it means that I see what needs to be done. But my hand skills just aren’t there yet.
We also spend many hours outside of class studying for exams. Every week we have an oral health science exam, and we have three pharm exams every quarter. We also have four practical exams for SIM and some other quizzes and exams for other courses peppered throughout the quarter.
Third and fourth year students
As I said before, I can’t really comment on the D3 and D4 schedules much except to say that they are light on the classwork for a good reason. Midwestern’s philosophy is to minimize the didactic coursework during our clinical years to allow us to focus on clinical dentistry.
Our dean has said more than once that they treat our fourth year like a built-in residency, preparing us to go out into the world immediately and start working. Of course we will all be green, despite the tremendous advantages and experience Midwestern provides. But I still feel like I made the right decision when I chose to attend Midwestern.
Hopefully this post can give some insight to anyone wondering what dental school is like. Remember that much of what we do is not actually on the schedule. Like I said earlier, we spend a lot of time at home studying or in the SIM clinic finishing projects. They say that this is the worst year of our training, and I hope they are right. But I also love everything that we are learning and finally feel like I am becoming a dentist.