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THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Dentistry and Disabilities

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Dentistry and Disabilities


Disability insurance is something most dental students, including myself, are not overly concerned about. We have been told that our profession relies on a healthy neck, back, hands, and eyes. But, those horror stories of dentists injuring their backs and being forced into early retirement would never happen to you, right? Personally, I have had my fair share of close calls, but that does not mean I will opt to sit out on the next winter ski trip or fall softball league just to avoid a potential accident. I enjoy seeking life’s thrills, and minor accidents hadn’t ever stopped me, until two weeks ago.


A minor car accident left me with a broken right wrist, surgery to place pins in my scaphoid, and eight to ten weeks in a cast. In many ways, the accident was lucky.  No one was further injured, the break was on my non-dominant hand, and I am only a dental student, meaning there is no major financial loss that practicing dentists would experience.


I could steer this conversation towards the difficulties of life and dental school as a one handed student, but I will save you the pity party. Instead, I want to sincerely stress to you the importance of researching and purchasing disability insurance that is right for your lifestyle.  While in dental school, all members of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) have disability coverage available to them at no cost. The following is taken directly from asdanet.org:


As a dental student, the ADA offers no-cost ADA-sponsored Student Members Disability Insurance to you during school and residency as a benefit of ADA student membership. This important coverage includes:

$2,000/month disability income insurance for up to seven years to help pay living expenses during a period of disability due to injury or illness

Up to $150,000 to help repay student loans

Coverage renews automatically each academic year for ADA student members

Eligible ADA student members can create a login at www.insurance.ada.org/RegisterNow and follow the prompts to request activation of this disability insurance.


After you complete your dental education, the coverage remains at no cost through December 31st of the year of graduation. You then have the option to convert your student member disability coverage to two types of ADA-sponsored disability insurance for practicing ADA member dentists:

$2,000/month of ADA Members Disability Income Protection Plan: This plan helps replace lost income and members can apply for additional insurance, up to $15,000/month.

$2,000/month of ADA Members Office Overhead Expense Plan: This plan helps repay student loans and members can apply for up to $25,000/month.

To convert, simply pay the premiums when you receive your invoice via mail in December following your graduation, and maintain active ADA membership.


Visit www.insurance.ada.org/, call 855-411-5197, or e-mail planspecialist@greatwest.com for more information and to learn about coverage provisions, limitations, terms for keeping coverage in force and the option to convert to member coverage after graduation at ADA member-only premiums.


So, for all of the procrastinators like me that have read this far, you can continue sleeping well.  Just make sure you have activated your free student disability insurance. While we are students, we can continue living fearless, courageous lives. However, what are we to do once we begin practicing in the real world? Here in the state of Texas, the Texas Dental Association (TDA) does a great job of meeting with third and fourth year students to address the issue of purchasing disability insurance after graduation. The TDA partners with their own insurance company to cater a disability package to dentists in Texas. For those not in Texas, the ADA provides members with two options of disability insurance, as provided in the indent above. However, as with all insurance plans, there are benefits and limitations.


The ADA does have your best interests in mind, but their plans are not tailored to your specific needs and income. Some of you may plan on living and practicing in an area of the United States that has a significantly higher cost of living than other areas. For you, it would be wise to investigate disability plans with private insurance companies that will consider your practice income and overhead and offer are more affordable monthly stipend if you lose the ability to practice. Another determinant is the consistency of your plan. Will your insurance company be able to raise your premiums or lower your disability coverage after initial contracts are agreed upon? Renegotiation of your insurance plan can be good or bad, but it is important you are involved in the decision.


I am no expert in this field, and even I plan to do more researching before graduation. I simply urge you to be proactive. Attend lunch and learns when this topic is presented. Ask questions to any insurance or financial representative that crosses your path. Accidents can happen to the best of us. Having a back up plan for you and your family can save a lot of headache in your future.

Courting the right NMATCH

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We all are trained in the DO’s and DON’TS of Dental school interviews. For example what to wear, what to bring, and how to act, but the real question is whether the Residency that you’re putting all this work in for right for YOU! This blog will give pointers on not only how to be successful during residency interviews, but as a soon to be doctor, what you should demand out of this relationship.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step:  Start to investigate programs before you even apply for them on the ADEA PASS. Get to know the program based on their website and look for posted FAQ’s. I recommend doing a site visit before applying. This is a great way to eliminate applying to any unnecessary programs, and only applying to programs which are a perfect match for you! Investigating which programs you want to apply to can be the biggest step in deciding to do a GPR, Oral Surgery, Endodontic, Prosthodontic, Pedodontic, Anesthesiology or Periodontic Residency. Applying to too many can be a waste of time and money on both the director and your part, thus I highly recommend doing your investigation early. While at these site visits and evaluating the program remain courteous…


You catch more flies than with honey than vinegar: Be courteous and personal to those on site of interview day, and not just the interviewer but your competition, the entire faculty, front desk, and Residents. Your ability to be personal sends a message to the program on whether you would be a good fit or not.


He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever:  Asking questions shows your interest in the programs and demonstrates that you’re involved in the conversation with the person interviewing you. No one likes to be in a conversation with someone who is not active. Be prepared to ask a wide range of questions while on your interview. Ask current resident on how to prepare for the interview. Some great questions are:


-What are plans for this program?

-Tell me about the frequency of complex cases that Residents are able to accomplish once becoming established in this program?

-How many Residents go on the further residency programs after this one? And where did they go? (This last clause may seem pretentious, so use judiciously)

-What CE/didactic courses or clinical training do you offer that set you apart from most other programs? (Great question for a site visit)



As I stated earlier, we are trained in general how to behave during residency, but making that perfect match is like finding the right person. It takes inquisition, consideration, and most importantly time!

Maryland's Mission of Mercy Dental Program

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There isn’t a more rewarding experience than witnessing first-hand the impact of Maryland’s Mission of Mercy Dental Program. For the first time since starting dental school, I was reminded of the qualities that initially drew me to the field of dentistry. Not only was I able to witness this, but my hands were helping bridge the gap for so many people without access to dental care. 


Mission of Mercy’s Dental Program is a fully mobile dental clinic. The clinic travels with portable dental treatment chairs, x-ray machines, autoclaves, instruments, electric generators, and hand tools. Several hundred volunteer dental professionals along with volunteer staff hold two day long dental clinics at different locations around the country. The first Mission of Mercy (MOM) Project launched in July of 2000. Since then, the program has expanded across the country. Maryland is home to four MOM events that are hosted in Western Maryland, Mid-Maryland, Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland. Two MOM events occur in Maryland each year. The hundreds of patients that are treated at MOM lack access to dental care, lack financial ability to afford dental care, or simply have no dental home. There is no cost to the patients; everything is free for them. MOM does not use any government funding; therefore, patients do not have to show any documentation proving their poverty. You might be thinking, who pays for everything at this fully mobile dental clinic? The dental organizations of the state where the event is held raise private donations to cover the entire cost of the event.


I volunteered at my first MOM Project this past fall in College Park, Maryland. When I first arrived, I saw several hundreds of patients lined up outside of the building. Many of them had pillows and blankets and had spent the entire night in line for the 7 AM opening. All services at MOM are provided on a first-come first-serve basis. Once the doors opened at 7 AM, they were closed just a few hours later as the facility quickly filled up with patients in need of dental care. Services provided at MOM vary from one event to another, but typically MOM offers cleanings, extractions, root canals, fillings, oral surgery, and oral hygiene education. The event was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I really felt a sense of love and community among everyone there. I assisted alongside dental professionals who cared for the patients like they were family, and it was rewarding to see the impact we made in people’s lives.


I am planning to volunteer at the upcoming MOM next month in Maryland, and I am really excited to help MOM continue to build relationships within the community for years to come. As dental students, an experience at MOM will remind you why you are enduring exam after exam, long nights of studying, and endless hours in the simulation lab.

Stress Management in Dental School

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It is no secret that dental school is not easy.  Between numerous exams, lab projects, and/or clinical responsibilities, the life of a dental student can become quite stressful at times. It is essential that dental students find outlets to manage their stress appropriately to reduce anxiety.  There are many options that provide stress relief for dental students; you just have to find an option(s) that works for you. 

At the Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD), we are fortunate to have a large gym near the dental school which caters to undergraduate and graduate students.  It is not rare to see many of my colleagues and even professors at the gym before or after classes and clinics.  Joining a gym near your dental school not only makes it convenient since time is limited, but also gives you the opportunity to reduce stress with your colleagues.  I often find my classmates working out together, which makes stress management fun and enjoyable. Many gyms provide student rates and offer a variety of programs/classes to cater to your unique interests.  You can’t go wrong with a gym that offers diverse options! 

Yoga has become a very popular option for stress reduction among dental students.  As a matter of fact, many ASDA chapters are incorporating yoga classes into their wellness initiatives at their schools.  Ross Brenner, a third year dental student at IUSD first experienced yoga during IU ASDA’s complimentary yoga class this past December. He now practices hot yoga and says, “There's nothing like hot yoga that takes stress away. Every time I finish a session, I feel clear and ready to tackle what's ahead of me.” Practicing yoga offers many benefits such as meditation and relaxation, which can help release the day-to-day stressors of dental school.  Many yoga studios provide student discounts, which can make memberships affordable. Personally, yoga is one of my favorite ways to reduce stress and anxiety from dental school. It has been a great option for me ever since I started dental school. 

After big exams and hours of studying, my classmates and I plan fun events for everyone to enjoy, which provides a chance for everyone to hang out outside of school.  I highly recommend this option to you and your colleagues.  You can attend professional sports games or catch the latest movie out in theaters.  Regardless, checking out new experiences with your colleagues outside of dental school and without scrubs can be an exciting occasion to reduce anxiety.  In addition, it will give you the opportunity to know your classmates better!  

Stress is inevitable during dental school.  The key is managing the stressors appropriately to maintain a positive outlook during your dental school career.  There are many outlets to choose from like working out or trying new activities with your colleagues.  Either way, it is essential to discover methods in managing your stress to make dental school enjoyable and exciting.  Take a break from the books and go find what helps you reduce stress!