Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Adventures of a First-year Student

Posted by Chione Daniel on October 17, 2017

For many predental students, getting into dental school will be one of their greatest accomplishments. For me, this dream began in high school, and from there I began my lifelong journey to becoming a dentist. Not having a dentist to look to for guidance made it difficult to establish a solid foundation for my plans. However, through shadowing local dentists and reaching out to dental students, I was able to gain valuable knowledge, insight and experience.

Chione soap carving(2)
The first year of dental school actually began over the summer. We were given various assignments, such as creating a personal code of conduct, reflecting on our upcoming Gross Anatomy experience, completing a StrengthsFinder assessment and—the most ‘fun’ assignment of them all—a soap carving exercise. The assignment to generate a wax maxillary central incisor seemed extremely fun and exciting at first. Without any guidance, I thought for sure that my tooth would be in the running for one of the top carvings of the class. Unfortunately, we were not able to see our classmates’ teeth before submitting our own, so I was in for a rude awakening. While my tooth had not been anything close to the submissions of my classmates, I can honestly say I’ve grown a lot from my first soap carving of the maxillary central incisor. 

Typical Schedule

The first week of dental school was all about getting acquainted with our surroundings, finding our niche, getting used to waking up earlier than usual and basically establishing routines as dental students—which for me took two weeks to adapt. 

Here’s a look at a sample schedule, which can vary each week:

  • Monday: Gross Anatomy Lecture/Lecture (8:00 a.m. – noon), Lunch, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry 

  • Tuesday: Dental Anatomy Lecture/Lab (8:30 – 11:30 a.m.), Lunch, Professionalism, Developmental Biology

  • Wednesday: Gross Anatomy Lecture/Lecture (8:00 a.m. – noon), Lunch, Biochemistry 

  • Thursday: Dental Anatomy Lecture/Lab (8:30 – 11:30 a.m.), Lunch, Developmental Biology

  • Friday: Gross Anatomy Lecture/Lecture (8:00 a.m. – noon), Lunch, Professionalism; or Gross Anatomy Lecture/Lecture (8:00 a.m. – noon), Lunch, Biochemistry

As you can see, the curriculum for dental school is extremely packed and the administrators usually have strict guidelines for students who need to make up exams and for those who miss mandatory classes. For the most part, classes in the first semester of dental school are not mandatory. We were offered the choice to watch the recorded lecture instead for classes such as biochemistry, developmental biology and gross anatomy, which can seem repetitive to some students. On the other side of the scale, dental anatomy, gross anatomy lab and professionalism are all mandatory courses.

Chione model teeth

Waxing

The Dental Anatomy course is our first glimpse into the dental profession and one of the first opportunities to get our hands on teeth. We also began waxing during the first week of school, with our first project being to create a pyramid. Within no time, we were waxing our #9 tooth—the maxillary central incisor. You can imagine my fear of this assignment after seeing my previous performance above. We had a lecture to introduce us to the tooth and its anatomy before Simulation Lab. To my surprise, when I entered the Simulation Lab, there were many faculty members and dental students waiting to assist my classmates and me on our first tooth. I found their help to be extremely useful and informative. Although they seemed to be a bit tough on us, we understand the criticism is needed for our school to continuously produce excellent dentists. In the end I found Dental Anatomy to be a therapeutic class because it does not require the same strategies as the basic science courses. Also, it can be extremely fun to see the creations that come from your own hands. It is all about practice, hand-eye coordination and learning how to manipulate our instruments to do what we want them to do. 

Adjustment Period

After the first week of school, life began to pick up. It became difficult to wake up at 6:30 a.m. each morning after coming home from school to study, make dinner, pack a lunch and make time for personal care. Throughout our first few weeks, my classmates ALWAYS made time for fun, whether it was a Friday night de-stress or squeezing in time during our lunch break to hit up the professional student lounge to play ping pong. One of the joys of dental school is that we are all going through it together. We keep each other grounded and sane through times of fatigue or frustration. One instance was the result of Hurricane Irma. Due to the storm, our class was stuck with three exams and a practical all taking place in one week, but I can assure you—no student was left behind. Our smiles, encouraging group messages and ping pong tournaments provided extra fuel for us to continue the journey to the profession that we are so grateful to have been chosen for.

 Chione in text

Pride—Surviving the First Weeks

I am not sure whether it is the result of our resilience through our first exams, earning a class average of 90% on all four exams, or the highly enthusiastic pep talks we received from our dear professor, Dr. Cook—but five weeks in, I am still happy to have chosen the great profession of dentistry. I encourage any students on the edge of a decision to pursue dentistry to shadow a dentist or speak with a couple of dental students to gain insight the same as I did. In a couple of years, my classmates and I will graduate and matriculate into the world, taking with us the opportunity to change lives with our hands and hearts. As first-year students, the University of Florida is already teaching us that dentistry is not just about teeth, but rather it’s about caring for patients holistically and providing them with the necessary tools to make proper oral health decisions. Though we are years away from treating our first patients without supervision, I am so proud to have been given the opportunity to learn and grow at the University of Florida. Go Gators!

Read more about Ms. Daniel’s journey to a D.M.D.

About Chione Daniel:

Chione Daniel

Chione Daniel
University of Florida
College of Dentistry, Class of 2021

Chione Daniel is a first-year dental student at the University of Florida College of Dentistry. She received her B.S. degree from the University of Florida in 2017. After graduation, Chione plans to pursue a residency in Advanced General Dentistry and hopes to bridge the gap in health disparities in her hometown of Miami, FL