Life as a dental student at King’s starts out much like any other degree. The first year is spent getting to know other students, coming to terms with having to budget, attending science based lectures and taking the occasional wrong tube somewhere.
Prior to learning about the clinical hands-on skills required within dentistry, lectures are given on basic physiology. This then moves towards a dental focus by second year. We learnt about the development of teeth, head and neck anatomy from human cadavers and tooth morphology by making teeth out of wax with the help the of dental technicians.
Having a basic understanding of the principles of dentistry, we then started learning simple caries removal techniques and practicing filling teeth with a variety of materials. This is through the use of phantom heads on the clinical skills floor and provides the knowledge needed to start treating real life patients. We first started treating patients at the end of second year. I remember arriving over an hour early to read my patient’s notes, set up the dental bay and talk through the case with my clinical tutor. Although treating your first patient is a huge hurdle, at King’s you are eased into the process slowly by first providing oral hygiene advice and a simple scale and polish. This is all done under the close supervision from your clinical tutor.
Fast forward to now, I am currently waiting to head into my fourth year of dentistry. This year has been spent completing basic fillings, treating my first denture case and extracting my first few teeth. At King’s the timetable works in a way that you have a set day for each time of dental treatment. For example, we have a set day for seeing denture patients and another day for treating gum disease. This means you have a clinical tutor who has a special interest in that area and you can easily prepare for whichever treatment you have planned for the next day. Throughout second year to the end of fourth year we are partnered up with another student in the year and take it in turns to nurse for each other. This means that you can observe your partners work and learn from their experiences as well as your own. It’s a great opportunity to get used to working in a team with your dental nurse and enjoy working alongside one of your peers.
The most rewarding part about studying dentistry has to be the patients. There is no better feeling than meeting a patient for the first time, listening to their concerns, diagnosing their problems and completing their treatment. Often at the first meeting you might doubt your own abilities or feel that the treatment is out of your capabilities. However, challenging cases is where you learn the most about dentistry. It is so satisfying to meet your patient again at the review stage and see how happy they are with the outcome after many long appointments of hard work.
One of my other favourite parts of studying dentistry so far has to be seeing my own skills develop throughout the years. To begin with a simple filling would easily take me the whole two hour appointment but now I am much more efficient and feel confident enough to finish a filling with minimal guidance. Another high point has to be extracting my first tooth during oral surgery. I’m not a huge fan of blood so this was probably the thing I was most nervous about, thankfully when it came to it I was completely fine and enjoyed the experience.
I’m most looking forward to my paediatric and orthodontic clinics next year and I’m starting to look into my elective. This is an optional placement during the summer of next year, in which you can either stay in the UK or travel overseas to experience dentistry in another culture. Although I’m not too sure where in the world I want to go yet!