8 Questions from a Prospective Dental Student, Answered.
A reader of my blog asked me several questions related to dental school a few weeks ago, and here are my answers. For current dental students and prospective dental students, I hope you find this valuable!
Dear Larry, Thanks for the helpful advice.I was wondering if you could please leave all the memory tactics you used to pass dental school. Memorizing was never my strength in academics. Before dental school, I was always more about understanding and thinking my way out of a jam. With the amount of multiple choice tests and one word, fill in the blank memory type of tests in dental school, you just can’t reason your way out of something. If you don’t know the answer, you don’t know the answer! Repetition is key. Five times through your notes rather fast is much more useful than two times through your notes really slow. Studying gross anatomy with friends also helps. Injecting some interactive elements into your studying was new to me in dental school, but it worked.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m a visual learner” or “I learn by doing”? Whatever. If you want to truly master being a student, you have to embrace learning in whatever form it comes in. You have to embrace all techniques. I love mnemonics, I love creating stories to recreate ideas in my brain, and I love visual styles like writing words on a sheet of paper and then recalling where that word was on my sheet of paper during the test.
Also do you have any special ways to pass organic chemistry or make it any easier if I am just not understand it? I took organic chemistry in the 1990s, has anything changed?! If you’re going to lectures and studying and things still aren’t clicking in your brain, I highly recommend a tutor. There’s no shame in having a tutor. Professional athletes have coaches and trainers. Professional students need coaches and tutors, too. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you see where your shortcomings or misunderstandings are, and you can get through things easier to get on the path to success. Pride and ego are sometimes the biggest roadblocks to success. Get a tutor!
How important is having a foundational background in chemistry for dental school? That’s a tough question to answer. How important is math? How important is chemistry? How important is biology? Let me get super philosophical on you for a minute. These classes not only teach you basic things you’ll always need to know if you do anything in science or health care, they change the way your brain works. Once you learn all these things, you can’t unlearn them. It forever changes how you look at the world around you. The effort and energy that you have to expend to wrap your head around these things turns you into a different person, just like how four years of dental school changes you into a different person. The details get forgotten over time, but your brain learns how to work like a scientist and a true thinker from those classes, so they are essential.
Also do you have any more tips regarding how to increase your manual dexterity in terms of being able to mold teeth in order to get better grades in dental school? I had some classmates that took pottery or sculpting. There’s even some pre-dental groups and undergrad programs that offer waxing. I didn’t do any of that, but I played guitar and built things as a child, so maybe that helped. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about this before dental school. Occasionally students have problems with this, but hard work and tutoring get most students where they need to be in dental school.
And any other advice for someone taking the DAT for the first time? I have a whole article where I talk about the DAT that you should read here.
Also how do you read a textbook in dental school? OR do you just rely on the teacher’s notes? My experience in dental school was that I didn’t rely on textbooks very much. There’s a few that I would reference from time to time, but when I was studying it was mostly class notes, sample test questions, and handouts given in class. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of pages of handouts, so don’t be under the impression that there’s no reading, because there is!
Lastly, do you have any advice for a predental student that is confident she wants to go into oral and maxillofacial surgery residency after dental school? Thanks! Approach dental school and the entire experience with an open mind. I have classmates that started out wanting to specialize and change their mind. There were others that had no intention of specializing and ended up doing so. Others graduated, practiced for a few years, and then returned to school to specialize. Approach everything with an open mind, and if that’s where the path takes you, that’s awesome, oral surgery is an exciting area of dentistry. Whether you specialize in oral surgery or not, there’s so many opportunities for fulfillment in your life and in your career that you really can’t go wrong. Good luck to you!