Thursday, August 28, 2008

Holy Crap

Here is a perfect example of how crazy D-2 year is.

Wednesday was our first day of fixed prosthodontics at 8am. We had a bunch of busy work to do which eventually had the entire class crammed into the wet lab trying to pour up models and mount them on an articulator. There are 6 sinks, 4 or 5 vibration mounts, 4 cast trimmers, and 6 index pieces for mounting the maxillary cast. There are 67 students. This room is NOT large.

Now I'm not whinning too much because I actually got a lot done but the atmosphere is just unbelievably stressful with everyone hovering around trying to use the various equipment. Everything was finished around 6pm. Unfortunately as a D-2, the day doesn't end so easily like last year. I went out for dinner with classmates and promptly returned to mount my teeth for endo on friday. Thankfully the instructor approved the molars I had collected so things should be workable.

So we mount the teeth which actually takes forever simply due to lack of experience (I hope to get efficient as we do more). Unfortunately, the stone takes longer to set because we mix it with acrylic (so that you can still see the roots with radiographs). So we finished all our pour-ups by 9:30ish but now have to wait awhile in order to safely get them out. After the chore of mounting them in the first place, nobody is interested in taking them out early.

I ended up staying at the school until midnight with a classmate taking radiographs of other teeth, followed by the same on the mounted teeth once they had really dried up. Students are supposed to be out of there by 10pm I think, so we had to carefully dart around avoiding the random security patrols. If anything, this kept my mind awake enough to finish all the work.

So my day essentially was 16 hours with a 1 hour dinner break (skipped lunch).

The hilarious part is that today, I was done at noon with nothing really left to do until endo. We have two quizzes tomorrow but I don't really feel like studying. It just is nice to essentially have a chill day in the middle of this rollercoaster week. The first week of the semester I might add.

I know I say this all the time, but dental school is bipolar. You have intense moments where you feel like there is no way in hell you will make it out, followed by euphoric days when you actually have the time to sit back and acknowledge how much you have actually learned.

However, I'm pretty sure that Saturdays will officially become 1/2-days of school for me this year..

good times.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The D-2 Experience II

Quick note: I took the boards but I haven’t gotten my scores yet. I don’t really have much to say about it. The difficulty for me was similar to the released exams however many of my classmates found it much harder. Seeing as there are different versions and of course everyone has different goals going into the exam, it isn’t surprising to see varying opinions. Many of my classmates have yet to take the test, and every time I see someone going through decks, I shudder a little bit. But thankfully, I am through it (hopefully!)

Back to the D-2 year I go, this second semester is going to be challenging for sure. The shift in curriculum is more blatant than ever now. The only lecture based class is oral pathology; everything else is straight up lab work. This opens up an entire new world of frustration. I am tired already and it has only been 2 days. However, the freedom I have to relax once I actually leave the school is MUCH greater than in previous semesters. Sure we have midterms, finals, and quizzes – but there really is no constant need to study random factoids. Rather, one must spend time preparing for the many performance exams on the horizon. I have been a D-2 long enough to realize that this will be harder than the D-1 year. The stress of performance exams crushes sitting in a giant lecture hall filling out bubbles. The constant lab assignments and projects just wear on you. The bipolar nature of dental school becomes even more blatant as you succeed and fail countless times over.

I still am glad to be in it though, and as my wise father has proclaimed “At least there’s an ending.” So true – yet we must all carry on.

So let me break down this fall semester:

Comprehensive Care IIB – My fourth comp care class…mm they are getting old. This time our grade is 50/50 between restorative and perio. We also will be in the clinics in a similar fashion to last semester although I believe we will get to do more. We haven’t had the orientation for this portion yet so I’m not sure.

We only have one performance exam for restorative and we are slowly being assimilated into the glories of treatment planning. Pretty much all of our restorative work will be ‘mock’ cases in preparation for the actual treatment planning course. My first REAL patient will be in perio this fall. I have enlisted my own mother to come in for a perio exam/cleaning. It should be fun!

Removable Partial Dentures – First class Monday morning. The lab work is all pass/fail which greatly reduces the stress (although it is still a LOT of work). This course, much like most of them this semester, will eat up a lot of time. The title explains what I will be doing – learning how to fabricate removable partial dentures. This caters to people that are missing a few teeth, and would like them restored without implants or removing all the good teeth for full dentures. We have a few performance exams, as well as quizzes and tests. I already failed to complete our first lab assignment during class time. Saturdays here I come!

Complete Dentures – We started this class with about 5 weeks left in our summer semester. We will finish it at the end of this semester. Basically we get put into groups of 10 or so students. Each group gets a patient. While the instructor does all the ‘official’ work, we get to practice and observe pretty much the entire process of fabricating complete dentures. In return for getting pawed at by many students, the patients get their dentures for free. I really like our patient, although I feel like having 10 students per groups really puts a dampener on how much hands on experience I actually get. Without repetition, I really can’t learn many things. So I doubt this course will make me all that great. I will at least be familiar with the steps necessary when all is said and done. We meet on Fridays for ½ the day.

Fixed Prosthodontics I – This class will be the beast of the semester. All of the upperclassmen claim it is tough – namely because the instructor is VERY particular about perfection. However, everyone also claims that you really learn the material and develop the all important hand skills. I’m going to learn a lot about crowns and bridgework for sure. We meet once a week on Wednesdays…ALL day.

Endodontics – This class makes me want to puke and we have never even had a lecture/lab yet. I guess it is the most frustrating because nobody really explains to you HOW important it is to collect a TON of teeth from a TON of dentists/specialists. Yea they tell you once you get accepted to start collecting, and I certainly did get a jar or two out. However, you don’t magically get a ton of teeth. Some offices will maybe fill half your jar in a year (if you’re lucky). Also, about 90% of the teeth you get are completely worthless. I mean, most people don’t have pristine teeth pulled out of their mouths. So you end up with a lot of bombed out teeth and crappy third molars that will NOT help you.

If I could do it again, I probably would have put out no less than 10 jars the day I got accepted. I would have constantly kept tabs on them, collected and refilled as necessary. Even then, I may still have not had enough. It is all random luck depending on where you get the teeth. Having no connections REALLY doesn’t help either.

Now after all of that, I am scraping by. I have some teeth obviously, but not enough to practice. So essentially I have to do everything perfect my first shot. Blah. What is more annoying though is that we have been given NO instruction on how to do anything. We had some intro lecture back in May that of course everyone will forget about that quickly ran through this stuff – but that is ridiculous timing. We have to select teeth, radiograph them, pick out the ones with good canals, mount them in acrylic/stone, radiograph them AGAIN. We have to have all our molars good to go by this Friday. I have radiographed everything, but I am not mounting jack shit until I get an instructor to look at the rays and tell me the best ones to use. On the plus side though is that the instructors DO seem pretty cool and I’ve heard that they do a good job teaching once you get through all the busy work.

The thing that sucks is that I am actually pretty interested in this class, and I want to be able to do endo in practice for sure. I will hold off judgment until we get rolling, but I really am concerned that I just won’t have enough teeth to become competent. We meet for ½ the day on Fridays.

Oral Pathology – The class that occasionally makes me miss first year. I mean, sitting in lecture halls may be mind-numbing at times, but ultimately it is still just sitting listening to someone talk. You don’t have to physically DO anything which is something I greatly took for granted. Not saying I would want to do more lecture classes, but you sometimes miss the just sitting on your ass staring blankly into space portion of school. It is the same as general path I and II EXCEPT the material covered is FINALLY relevant. It took three semesters, but things have finally gotten interesting.

The big kicker is that we get Tuesday afternoons off to ‘study for boards.’ Seeing as I already took them, I can use this time to catch up in all my work, prepare endo teeth, or just sit on my ass and watch tv. Any way you cut it, having a designated afternoon off is great.

That about sums it up. Things are definitely tough. I see why most dental students hate second year. But I like to put a nice spin on things – 2 more semesters and I’m in the clinics. No more plastic teeth and unrealistic ‘ideal’ preps. No more taking impressions of my dentech (which is actually harder than on a real person). No more jamming 67 students into a tiny wet lab or cluttered pre-clinic. I’m sure there will be a new host of things that are annoying, but the general consensus around the country is that third year is the BEST year.

Back to watching the sox game. Yea that’s right, I’m not studying. The big perk of year 2 for sure. Although I’m sure there will be moments where things are not this calm.

I will just pretend like that won’t happen. Ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hitting The Wall (that was previously closing in)

My board exam is one day away and I find myself posting. Why you might ask? Because I am sick of looking at this shit, plain and simple. I fiddled my entire summer away going to school, followed by evenings of board review. In a cruel twist by Mother Nature, the weather this summer has been unbelievable. I have done very little in terms of ‘fun.’ Will it even be worth it? Seeing as my plans to specialize are currently non-existent, I would say no.

So will I pass? I think so. I feel like failing this test is pretty difficult to do if you kept up in school and studied for a bit. You can get something like 60% right and still pass. However, doing WELL on this test has become ridiculously difficult since the format change. According to the 1998 scoring converter, I am consistently averaging a 91 scaled score on the old exams. This is what one would call, bad ass. However, judging through various unofficial sources and random test taker experiences, a similar raw score by today’s standards will come out in the low 80s or so. So what’s the point? I honestly couldn’t have studied much more this summer, so this is the best I can do given these circumstances. Could others have done better? Of course. I think that if I knew 100% I wanted to specialize I would be motivated a hell of a lot more than I currently am. At most, I could see myself in a GPR which doesn’t really require stellar scores. It is hard to force more hours of studying when I see nothing to gain other than a number that will mean nothing down the road (as long as it’s at least 75).

So I’m not worried about failing, but I also feel like I could have just studied A LOT less, enjoyed my summer, and squeaked by just as easily. I’m stuck in that foggy grey area between amazing and just above average. I have a feeling I’ll end up in the above-average category when all is said and done. And at this point, I don’t care at all. I just want to be done, and then I want to forget that dental school exists for 10 entire days. Who knows though, maybe I am being overconfident in my passing ability.

These last few days have just been a waste. I can’t motivate myself to do ANYTHING. I have studied a bit..but it has all been fairly unproductive and my brain refuses to allow any more information in. My body and mind are simply stalled. I can’t progress with my post-test plans until the test is over, I can’t start cleaning my apartment because I don’t want to misplace all the papers and study books I have lying around. I also can’t study because I just don’t want to. I can clearly still bitch and moan about it though.

This is not the first time I have felt like this. I completely blew off the last 2 or 3 days prior to taking the DAT and thought I was screwing myself in the process yet here I am, 2.5 years later doing the same thing. I did fine on the DAT though, so hopefully this will happen again.

I swear I will be doing cartwheels all the way home Thursday evening. Then I can focus on the important things in life, like how big of an HD tv I should buy as a post-boards/birthday treat.

Well, I better get back to buying vintage Nintendo games on ebay because that is what I do when I have giant exams coming up.

I look forward to the day when someone can ask me about neurofibromatosis and I'll have no clue what they are talking about.

Screw this test.