How Assisting a Third-Year Dental Student Changed My View on Dental Education at UCSF

It’s been about five months since I’ve started dental school. After going through two quarters of studying, and now assisting a third-year dental student, I’ve finally come to see why the classes I’ve been taking at UCSF are necessary for me to become a knowledgeable and competent dentist.

The classes I have taken these past two quarters have been anatomy, histopathology, microbiology, pharmacology, research methods, dental procedures, tooth development and morphology, and patient care. Before dental school, I used to think that being skilled at dental procedures was enough to be a good dentist. This is because I mostly focused on how dentists performed clinical procedures rather than how they approached patients’ health conditions in a comprehensive manner. Honestly, even until the end of last quarter, I was not able to see the true benefit of learning didactic material in dental school. I felt like it was extra work. However, I realized how all the knowledge I have learned from didactic classes fit into clinical skills when I came to assist a third-year-dental student this quarter. During the assisting session, the student dentist assessed the medical records of a new patient. The medications, overall health conditions, previous surgeries, infections, diets, allergies, oral health conditions, and social history were assessed. There were many factors to be considered to come up with a treatment plan. The student dentist had to have some knowledge about medications in the patient’s medical record and the patient’s current health condition to decide if it was safe to provide the required dental procedure. In addition, the student dentist used knowledge from didactic courses to explain to the patient what was going on with their oral health status and why the proposed procedures were necessary.

This experience gave me an explanation for why I need to master material from a variety of courses at the UCSF School of Dentistry. To deliver the safest and the best possible care, a dentist should know not only how to perform dental procedures, but also how to consider such procedures in the context of the patient’s overall health condition.