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When you decide to take an interest in to studying Dentistry, the typical reaction you may get your peers might have you think that it’s an extremely demanding and challenging course.
But how much truth is there to the rumours?
We asked recent graduates from around the UK, in different years of study to answer the question: Do you find studying Dentistry stressful?
Here are the responses we got:
Dentistry is stressful at times but worth it. Exam time = a couple of weeks of regurgitating lecture notes in the library, which can be stressful when 2 days before the exam you can’t remember things you should.
However the majority of the time, the work you do outside of contact time is brought to a minimum depending on your own motivation; this helps to bring stress down.
Clinics bring around the best learning experience- communicating with patients and getting hands on helps drill facts learnt in notes and textbooks into your head.
For me, carrying out a procedure for the first time is the most stressful part of a clinic – the feeling of not being sure of what you are doing can make you feel incompetent.
Most people say about dentists that they work hard and play hard – this is so true and the dental nights out are a great way to blow off steam!
Personally, I feel that there are some aspects of the dental course which make it unique from other university courses, and this is also what can make it stressful.
In First year I lived with 7 other students in halls – all non-dentists. I found that I was in lectures between 9-5 on most days, and this is what the main challenge was; the fact that my peers had 8 hours of teaching all week whereas I had 8 hours in a typical day!
Then of course when you come on to the clinical component of the course, I very quickly learned that Dentistry has an extremely steep learning curve. You do not have the time or the resources available to master a technique in the labs before you are expected to perform them on patients. This has by far been the most challenging aspect of the course, but also the most interesting.
In hindsight, I do not really think I have been too challenged academically. Although it has not been a walk in the park, I felt that my A-levels had prepared me well. The content does not necessarily become more difficult at undergraduate level, there is just lots of it to learn!
Dental students have an immense amount of responsibility placed upon them – within 1 year and 3 months of studying dentistry I saw my first patient. It is because you have this duty of care to your patients and you naturally want to provide the best for them, it can place high demands on a dental student. Sometimes you can have a very bad afternoon on clinic and it can really upset you – many of us are bright and talented individuals but in Dentistry things can very easily go wrong as it is very technically demanding clinically, and this can damage a student’s confidence.
However, up until now I have had no regrets. I love what I do. The learning curve may be steep but practice certainly does make perfect. In certain periods of the course you get a fair few mornings and afternoons off as no dental school has enough clinical resources to provide teaching for the entire school at once.
Dental students have more friends. Fact! For 5 years we are constantly surrounded by the same students. Unlike medicine (where there can be many hundreds of students) most dental schools have a more intimate intake so you very quickly get to know dental students in your year and different years. Also because of the intimate intake in dental schools, we are able to enjoy events for dental students on a national level – something our medical peers can struggle with. (mention BDSA and american equivalent).
Lastly, I can happily say that I have never needed to pay for a toothbrush or toothpaste ever again!
I remember many years ago when I was applying for Dentistry, I thought to myself numerous times if I was cut out for a lengthy and demanding degree. I did not know what to expect with many questions hovering over my head, how demanding is this degree? will it be similar to A levels? Will I be able to handle the workload? Will I fit in uni with other people?
I am now in my fourth year, and with majority of the course over my shoulder, I can safely say for me that there has been its ups and downs, times where I struggled, but also times when I excelled.
I must say that the whole experience in my first year at dental school was adjusting to the environments and adapting to the teaching methods.
Academically, lectures are given with a broad view and you are expected to read around the subject at your own time. You can never gauge if you have done too much or too little reading. It is very different without a “model answer” just like in A Level where you learn the mark scheme to pass instead of applying your knowledge to pass.
Socially, the whole uni experience has been amazing! There is always something for someone, you just need to be proactive and look for it! I always had an attitude to be open minded and meet as many people as I can, and it seems to have worked for me! There are so many different societies out there you can join and so many
Before dental school, I did not know what to expect with time management, would it be intense, will all my time spent learning? Or will be time to relax? I had a mindset of: the people on the course would be geeks, all my time spent would be studying, the course would be mentally demanding and the exams would be impossible! How wrong can I be?! The course mates are all down to earth, my best friends from home are envious with the group of dental friends I have, there is definitely enough time to enjoy social events and getting generally bladdered! The course is challenging but its just learning to adapt to the style of teaching. If time and effort is put into learning, it is easily passable.
My only issues I really had was in first year when I lived in halls with other people from other courses, they are out partying majority of the time, whereas you have a 9am to 4pm timetable 4 days of the week! You soon get envious with the amount of spare time they have compared to you, but then again I had expected this from the start and had to come to terms with this!
My my opinion, Dentistry is not for the feint hearted, it is demanding and challenging, but as long as revision and work is done at the right times, it won’t be as impossible!
Always have an open mind and be prepared to meet lots of people!
My experience has suggested that it’s always hard when you are doing the exams and learning, but when you pass and look back, it’s always been a “what was that all the fuss about?”
It is a challenging course yes, but if you are studying dentistry for the right reasons, it definitely pays off and worth every bit of blood and sweat!
I remember coming to dental school thinking it would be like A-levels multiplied by a million. But when I look back, it really wasn’t too bad academically. I’d say it’s the same as A levels in that sense because it’s something that I was genuinely interested in (which makes it a whole lot easier!).
I thought the biggest challenge was the clinical aspect – not only the new skills we had to learn and perfect on manikens, but then transferring these skills to treating real patients was a different kettle of fish.
Exams in dental school are always going to be tough. One thing we all received a bit of a shock by was that we all did wonderful in our A levels, but then when we came to dental exams, we would be proud of getting 55% (50% is a pass) whereas before we would be used to no less than 80%!).
Taking part in extra-curricular activities is really important to keep your mind healthy. Too much Dentistry is a horrible thing! This is why I chose to live with non-dentists, as I figured that all dental students end up talking about is Dentistry (especially during the final years). However, living with Dentists is very handy for group revision.
I think support from your family and friends is very important during the stressful finals period as I don’t think I would have got through without it. At Manchester, we’ve had a 100% pass rate for the last 2 years…so it can’t be too bad, right?! My advice to you all is not to worry, believe in yourself, and take everything in your stride. Good luck!