Dear D1s: Welcome to Dental School 

By: Savanah Craig

Welcome to Dental School! You have worked so hard for this moment, and I want to be the first to welcome you to the most challenging four years of your life!

I know that you’re thinking that I’m just another exhausted upperclassman, who is trying to discourage you. A few months ago, that may have been the case, but today I am happily practicing in a profession that allows me to make a difference for my patients and have a work/life balance that I have always dreamed of!

However, I do want to be honest with you about what you’re about to experience, so that you can be set up for success! 

Dental School vs Undergrad

Dental school is different from undergrad in a lot of ways, let’s chat about a few of them.

Balancing Hand-Skills Courses & Didactic Coursework

Balancing hand-skills courses in addition to didactic coursework can be challenging. Either of these responsibilities would be difficult on their own, and the combination can make it feel impossible.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! I promise you’re not the only one feeling overwhelmed!

Upperclassmen are a great resource to use when determining how to successfully manage all the responsibilities of dental school. 

Relationships with Your Professors

Depending on how big your undergraduate university was, you may not have had close relationships with your faculty members.

In dental school, the smaller class sizes can give you the opportunity to form close relationships and find mentors among your professors. Your professors are a great resource to expand your learning beyond the classroom.

Dentistry is more subjective than you can imagine, and it can be helpful to consult multiple faculty members and gather differences of opinion on treatment options. Use these resources to your advantage while you have them! 

Relationships In and Outside of Dental School

The most important thing I can share with you is to focus on your relationships, in and outside of dental school.

Dental school will require a lot of sacrifices of your time, but it is really important to make your relationships a priority. Having people who can remind you that you are more than a dental student can help you to remain healthy.

Additionally, finding your support system within the dental school is beneficial. No one else will ever understand your experience as a dental student like people who have gone through it with you. It can take time, but finding your core group of friends can really make your dental school experience better.

Commiserating and bonding over your shared dental school experience is great, but it is important to find times to talk about things other than school. 

Dental School is Challenging BUT Rewarding

These next four years are going to be difficult, but there will be a lot of good moments to celebrate, too. Try to remember the good moments, celebrate every small win, and find ways to make these years about more than school.

This is the foundation for your career and what type of dentist you can become. Reach out to others for support and find what makes you really passionate about the career you have chosen to pursue.

Believe it or not, these 4 years are going to go by really fast and you don’t want to come out on the other side wondering how you spent your time. 

Next Up: Professional Identity Formation

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. She is currently a 2022 D.D.S. Candidate at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. She will be pursuing a General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC following graduation. In her free time, Savanah enjoys reading, exploring new restaurants, and traveling.