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Blogs

THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Benefits of Attending a Dental Conference as a Pre-doctoral Student

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When my classmate first alerted me of an upcoming dental conference in our area, I pushed the idea aside. Sitting in class from 8 to 5 everyday in school, I was not interested in listening to more lectures over the weekend. Even so, I agreed to join her at the Michigan Dental Association’s Annual Session in May. Needless to say, I am so grateful that I did. As students, we so often focus on the science and clinical skills it takes to become a dentist, and we can sometime forget that there will be lives to live and practices to run once we get that diploma. At the MDA Annual Session, I was exposed to a new world of dentistry, filled with networking and  professional development. Since then, I’ve also attended ASDA’s National Leadership Conference and plan to attend the ASDA Annual Session. I’ve taken classes ranging from “Developing Your Practice on a Budget” to “Finding Your Why” and have had the opportunity to meet so many new people, practicing dentists, national leaders, and students alike. I would urge any dental student to step outside their box and find a conference where they could work on becoming the dentist they want to be outside the classroom and clinic. The first step is committing to a weekend and putting on your best business professional attire, then the rest is up to you. Here are some tips to getting the most out of your 3-day professional development retreat: 


  • Find a new friend  
    These events are the perfect place to develop new friendships with people that will be your colleagues for the rest of your career. Dental students from across the country attend various conferences and it can be so beneficial to connect with someone that might be your future specialty resident or practice partner. Collect names, numbers, and emails in a specific location and keep in touch. Perhaps you can meet up again at the next conference you both attend.   
  •  Take advantage of the Vendor Fair  
These fairs can be overwhelming. They generally consist of a long line of 50+ tables set up with every dental product you can imagine. Don’t just go for the free samples. Many of the vendors are so excited to meet interested dental students, and they are more than happy to explain their product. Ask questions and you will quickly develop a sense for what to look for in these products when you enter practice.   
  •  Categorize your classes  
Most conferences offer a wide range of classes from professional development to practice management to clinical skills. It is important to categorize your classes and ensure that you attend lectures from each category. This way, you receive a well-rounded education and don’t get stuck listening to the same lesson each hour. Once you’ve attended a few conferences, then you can target the classes that you feel you need more training in.   
  •  Have fun  
While sitting in lectures doesn’t sound like optimal weekend plans, these conferences can make for a great time. They’re often held in cool cities and most nights are open for exploring. Take some friends and take some time to reward yourself for the hard work you put in towards becoming a better future dentist!   

 

Value of Community Service

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WesternU strives to train compassionate, humanistic healthcare providers, and throughout the last several years of my education, I’ve been able to participate in many community service opportunities. Recently, I spent seven weeks at two AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) dental clinics providing low-cost dental care to members of the HIV and AIDS community. One afternoon, a woman walked in wanting to become a new patient. When the receptionist explained to her that the clinic was for patients with HIV, the woman responded with wide eyes, loud hysterics, and rushed out the door. Though no dentist could ever react similarly (ethically or legally, at least) when faced with HIV patients, many would still unfortunately prefer to not treat them. APLA provides a safe, judgment-free place for the HIV community to receive much needed dental care. While there, I learned that these patients can be some of the most in need of regular dental care and management due to the destructive nature of the disease and medications associated with it. I’ve become less apprehensive about treating this particular population and have learned how to better serve them. 

 

Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) in Pacoima, CA, is an organization powered by volunteers whose mission is “to break the bonds of poverty by providing basic human needs and a pathway to self-reliance.” I have volunteered on multiple occasions on weekdays and Saturdays in their dental clinic. We help members of the community living in poverty by relieving their pain, improving their hygiene, and restoring their aesthetics and function. By eliminating dental infections, performing fillings, and fabricating dentures for those missing teeth, we improve quality of life for the patients. Some experience improved self-esteem and some are more able to eat and enjoy more balanced nutritious meals. After all, it’s easier to choose vegetables over French fries and ice cream when you’re not in pain and you have teeth to chew with. 

 

Sometimes with our busy schedules studying for exams, trying to finish graduation requirements, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a social life, it’s hard to find time to volunteer and give back to the community. However, one of the most valuable things I’ve learned from my experiences helping others is that it can be very nourishing for the body, mind, and spirit – for the volunteers, that is. Focusing on someone else’s problems gives you a break from your own issues and can help you put things in perspective. This reduces stress, which has far-reaching health and social benefits. Making a positive impact on someone else helps me feel good at the end of the day. Smiles are contagious – when patients are happy, smiling, and expressing their gratitude, I can’t help but genuinely smile back. Hopefully the next time an opportunity for community service comes up, you can think about how giving back to others can also mean giving back to yourself.

Digital/3D Dentistry

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Recently, in several of my classes, I have been shown the realm of “digital dentistry”, a term which I am simply using to describe digital impressions, CEREC machines, and other computer aided design/processing units. I had of course heard of the many uses of 3D digital imaging and processing, but have only just recently begun to ponder the change that seems to be taking place in the dental profession. They say change is the only constant, and that definitely holds true in dentistry. My professors have a wide array of experience with these types of computer aided dental technologies, and although they each have their own opinions about them, they all agree that these machines are the future of dentistry.

 

As the popularity of digital imaging technology grows, it makes me wonder how the dynamic of the traditional dental practice will change along with it. Although there will always be a need for dental labs, will they decrease in number as an increased number of CAD/CAM units are put into practice? Growing up, many of my aged aunts and uncles were slow to learn how to use computers as they seemed to be more trouble than they were worth. I think their opinions have changed as we have surrounded ourselves with computers and smartphones in every home. I have to assume a similar situation will arise with 3D digital imaging and processing in the classic dental office. It is quite an expense for a practitioner to take on, however, one has to wonder how long it will be before the average patient would be surprised to hear that a dentist does not use this available technology.

 

As a dental student, I am in my infancy as a practitioner and have already had some training on this equipment as a part of my curriculum (which is great), so perhaps I am a little biased when I say that I believe every dentist should make use of this technology. Patients want to go to a dentist that works quickly and does a great job. Most patients would also prefer to make as few trips to the dentist as possible for a given procedure, and most dentists would likewise prefer to have the flexibility to see more patients. Both of these are possible when an office can process and place a crown in one visit as opposed to two or three, while performing a root canal in the mean time. There will always be situations that will require a more traditional approach with alginate impressions and the use of a dental lab, but I believe that will come to be the exception as opposed to the rule.

 

In my humble opinion, this technology is similar in potential to that of the internet in the 1990’s and those who make the effort to learn how to use it sooner rather than later will be at a serious advantage. The use this technology when it is appropriate and indicated will certainly add to any dentist’s ability to provide the best possible treatment for their patients.