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THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Tips for your Voyage into Drilling

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This semester I have started a clinical teaching class at Pitt Dental in which upper classmen get to interact with first year students as they begin their journey in dentistry.  I have the pleasure of working in our operative dentistry class, which is the first time first years pick up a drill.  From my interaction so far I have noticed many “nuggets of wisdom” from those teaching the class and those students realizing it on their own.  I wanted to share some of them with you today.



Do not be afraid to try new things. When you are learning how to drill, get advice from as many different clinicians as possible, young and old.  This is your time to try new things with no possibility of causing harm to your patient.  So try a different bur or a hand instrument.  Remember that as you grow in your drilling that your preferences may change so remember to keep adapting your technique.


Practice makes perfect.  Although your homework assignment may only be two preps, do more than two preps that week.  Every prep you will learn something new from and prefect your drilling technique.  Your hands will get stronger and steadier.  This is an exam that you cannot cram for.


Know why.  Why do you not want to cross the marginal ridge on this tooth? Why are you learning a prep there?   Why do you want a flat floor on an amalgam prep?  These are all questions that you should be able to answer at the end of your first operative class.  Real teeth do not look or act like the ones you practice on. They come with their own specific problems.  Any dentist should be able to take their basic knowledge and create preps from non-ideal situations.


Know when to stop.  There will be days where you will look at a prep and think if I could just get that one enamel rod out of there….and poof!  Your prep is ruined.  Know when to say that this is as good as I am going to get it.   Learn when you are going to do more harm than good. A lot of this comes with practice.  This is not as easy as it sounds, especially on practical day.


Hang in there! Just like the cat poster says, this is a journey that has no shortcuts.  There are times when you will feel discouraged (example: indirect vision) but still keep at it.  The admissions committee at your dental school accepted you because they saw your drive. They know you can do this, just keep at it.



1st Patient? No Problem !

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Emma J Guzmán, Next DDS Ambassador, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine 


Are you stressed about having your first patient? Are you not confident in your abilities to conduct the procedure? No worries! Remember a few key things-> you learned all the procedures and practiced them so whether or not you feel like it, YOU ARE READY!

Be confident in your abilities and make sure you don’t show your patient when you are not sure about something. Stop, take a breath and ask your instructor if you need help.

Preparation is key in every patient visit and once you complete these steps you will have no troubles during your first patient visit.

Call you patient and schedule the appointment. 

During this first interaction besides asking them to come in, you can get a feel for what your patient’s personality is like. How did they answer the phone? Did they seem indifferent or excited about coming in? Did they want to get off the phone quickly or did they want to speak to you for a while?

The answers to these questions can help you determine the type of person you will be dealing with.

Evaluate patient charts and radiographs.  

Look at the previous procedures your patient had done, check their periodontal status, restorations and caries risk assessment.

This information gives you a general feel for what your patient’s oral health is like and will give you a baseline at the beginning of the appointment to know whether or not the patient’s oral health has improved or worsened.

Looking at the radiographs will also give you a clue of the patients health and knowing when the last radiographs were taken will prepare you in anticipating whether or not you will have to take radiographs during your appointment.

Prepare yourself for the appointment. 

Now that you have information on your patient, you must make sure you know the sequence of the exam and how each procedure is done.

The anatomy and findings will be different in each patient but knowing the general sequence of the exam will help it run more smoothly.

Read a lecture or watch a refresher video of the head and neck, extraoral, intraoral and cranial nerve exam.

Make sure you know what instruments to use for each surface, etc.

Day before appointment. 

Have you clinic bag ready with all the materials you may need

Blood pressure cuff, mirror, pen, pencil, patient goggles, etc

Day of appointment. 

Get to clinic early and set up you station with ALL of your supplies

You DO NOT want to interrupt the appointment to go get supplies.


Get your patient from the waiting room, have a short conversation to get a feel for their mood and explain to them what you will be doing during the appointment.

Follow the order of the appointment that you previously prepared for and ENJOY performing Dentistry!

After the appointment. 

Thank patient for coming in and personally bring them to the business office if that is not done before the appointment. Make sure that they have their parking pass.

Ensure all findings and next appointment are included in paperwork.

Treat yourself for surviving your first patient

Note: Certain details are specific to UBSDM but you can alter anything to work you the clinic at your school  

Humor in the Dental Clinic

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             “Establishing rapport” has become one of those phrases that you hear over and over in dental school. The patient provider relationship is built on trust and communication, and the first step is to build a rapport with your patient to make them feel comfortable. So many patients have anxiety coming to the dentist. At this point who wouldn’t? Despite dentistry ranking as one of the best careers year after year, it is portrayed negatively in the media time and time again. Little Shop of Horrors, Horrible Bosses, The Whole Nine Yards, even kids movies like Finding Nemo do not show the dentist in a positive light. This is part of the reason why establishing rapport with your patient from the initial visit is so crucial. So how do you do it? How do you break down barriers between yourself and your patient? 

            For me, the answer is humor. Making jokes with patients is one way (but not the only way) to make the patient feel at ease. It has been claimed for centuries that laughter has health benefits, however only recently have scientific studies been done to try to prove this. In an article by Dr. Mora-Ripoll, four potential mechanisms of action were used to describe the effects of laughter. First, laughter can lead to direct physiological changes to the muscular, cardiovascular, immune, and neuroendocrine systems which can have short term or long term benefits.  Second, laughter can lead to a more positive emotional state and this may lead to a direct improvement of health or lead to a better perception of health. Third, laughter can optimize one’s strategies for coping with stressful situations. Finally, laughter can increase one’s social abilities which can lead to better stress management and health benefits. Furthermore, Dr. Mora-Ripoll described laughter as having numerous direct effects including: exercises and relaxes muscles, improves respiration, stimulates circulation, decreases stress hormones, increases the immune system’s defenses, elevates pain threshold and tolerance and finally, enhances mental function.

            While the benefits of laughter and humor are vast, in the dental office, a simple joke can ease the tension and make the patient feel more comfortable. That is why for this blog, I asked some of my classmates to see the best jokes and one-liners they use with patients to try to get a giggle, or maybe an eyeroll (we’ll take what we can get…) Here is what I got:


Mike, resident pun maker of Stony Brook D3 class had a few to add:  


After finishing an arch of perio probing, I ask the patient if they like Bon Jovi and then say “Because we’re half way there….”


When I finish their prophy, I say their teeth are clean enough eat off of


When treatment planning, I ask if they want an amalgam, composite or crème filling.

Andrew had one to add as well:

Sorry that lidocaine tastes so bad, but if it tasted good it would be candy cane


Or you can stick with some regular dental jokes:


Q: What did to the tooth say to the dentist?

A: Fill me in when you get back


Q: What do you call a bear with no teeth?

A: A gummy bear


Q: What did the dentist get for an award?

A: A little plaque


Please let me know any jokes you use with your patients that get a laugh! And for more funny dental jokes, check out some of the dental humor boards on pinterest!



Mora-Ripoll, R. (2009). The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 16(6), 56-64.