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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.