UCSF Students’ Favorite Clinical Moments

It’s winter quarter here at UCSF which means third year dental students are 6 months into their time in clinic and finally getting into the swing of patient care. With only 6 more months until they become fourth year students, the stress of taking skills assessments and competency exams is in full force. To top it all off, they just started night clinic once a week, adding even more to their already full plate. Fourth year students are just 6 months from graduation and can be found studying for upcoming board exams and sending desperate messages asking for cases that qualify for their graduation requirements. Overall, it is a high anxiety time in clinic with colorful exam sheets being spotted all over the cubicles and students looking more exhausted than ever when packing up at the end of the day. All throughout first and second year we were just waiting to make it to the clinical years when we would finally get to practice dentistry and do what we came to school for in the first place. But now that we are there, it’s easy to get bogged down in the stress of requirements, difficult patients, paperwork, class assignments, or a procedure that doesn’t go as planned. As a way to remind everyone why we chose a career in dentistry, I wanted to hear from fellow D3 and D4 students about experiences in clinic that reminded them of why they chose the profession. I posed the question, “What has been one of your favorite moments in clinic so far?” and some of the responses can be seen below. Hopefully they brighten your day and remind you why we dreamed of being dentists in the first place!

“With the stress of getting graduation requirement cases, it is refreshing to see a patient who has a simple treatment plan. Some of my favorite patents have been ones with a short treatment plan, which gives us more time to connect as human beings. We’re not rushing to do multiple fillings or to get a final impression in one appointment. When they do come to see me, I got to learn about their childhood, their travels, and one even brought her grandma to see me!” – Brittany Zhang, D4

UCSF School of Dentistry Predoc Clinic, source: ucsf.edu

“The sweetest patient said she is going to look me up after I graduate to find out where I’m practicing and told me I’m going to be a great dentist. I was on radio rotation. That must have been some FMX.” – Karisa Yamamoto, D3

“One of my favorite experiences has been noticing tangible growth in my skills as a provider. My first crown took four visits (over 12 hours!): remove the old filling, do the build-up, prep, and get a good impression. It was super challenging for me, but ultimately I was happy with the result and the process helped me for future procedures. Fast forward 6 months and I saw the same patient again for 4 more crowns. With 6 more months of practice, I was able to finish the four crowns in less time than my first. I really surprised myself with my growth in that period of time. The best part was my patient was equally as grateful for the first long crown as the four faster crowns. She recognized that both times I was trying my best and had her best interest in mind, and encouraged me throughout.” – Elizabeth Grover, D4

“One of my favorite and most rewarding moments in clinic was delivering my denture! It was so heartwarming to see a patient who hasn’t had teeth in almost a year be able to smile again. When he came back for his denture adjustments, he was beaming and said that he had gotten compliments from his wife, and friends about how great it looked. It was validating to see six months of work come to fruition but nothing was better than knowing I had made a small difference in this patient’s quality of life.”  – Rebecca Lerman, D3

“One of my favorite moments in clinic so far has been restoring my patient’s anterior teeth. She came in with chipped lower anteriors and did not even know that restoring them was an option. She was never given that treatment option before. After I completed my class 4 composite restorations, she was ecstatic and said she had got her old smile back. She told me she used to hide her teeth when she laughed, but now feels more confident in smiling. I love how dentistry allows me to enable others to rediscover their strength and happiness again.” – Albert Ngo, D3

“One of my patients calls me smalls. Every time I have to push his spot back he messaged me you’re killing me smalls. I had another patient that had to get the same filling done over a couple years and then I re did it and he was so elated. He went home and said for the first time his tooth felt normal and he could eat again. When I told him I got into ortho, he said general dentistry just suffered a great loss.” – Joti Kaler, D4

“D3 year. What a pivotal time as a dental student. It’s hard to believe we are already 6 months into clinic. Amidst the stresses of scheduling patients, administrative nuances, and overcoming all the other quirks that come with clinic life, it can be easy to lose sight at times about what brought us to dentistry in the first place. Our days are busy, but it’s so important to pause and remember the little things that make the long days worthwhile. For me, patient interaction and building a trusting relationship with my patients is a very important aspect of dentistry. I love seeing new faces day to day and discovering pieces of their unique stories. One of my patients early on came to UCSF because he was in pain, as many of our patients do. I quickly discovered how much he dreaded the dentist, not because he didn’t like us, but rather because he feared us. My patient was so anxious and jumpy before the exam – I was surprised he even made it through the door! But no matter the reason why, the important thing was that he was there. I knew it was up to me to try and provide my patient with a different experience and help make sure that pain wasn’t his only motivator to see a dentist. Patience (with patients) can really be a virtue as taking the extra time goes a long way. With my patient, the few extra moments I took to make sure he was comfortable, ask questions, listen, and communicate with him each step of the way, made a huge difference. Before my patient left, he had a smile on his face and said, “This was the best experience I’ve had at the dentist. I wish I could have had a dentist like you growing up. Thank you for showing that you care.” He made my day with those words, and I was instantly reminded of why our profession can be so rewarding. I was happy to have made a small impact on my patient and help turn what was a negative, fearful experience into one he could walk away smiling from.”  – Sapna Saini, D3

UCSF School of Dentistry Predoc Clinic, source: ucsfdentalcenter.org

 “After a year and a half of stressing and apologizing to my patients, by far one of my favorite things to hear is when my patients ask what I’ll be doing after I graduate and that they hope I practice close by. It humbles me and makes me feel good to know that they trust me to be their provider. I didn’t have the quickest appointments or the most beautiful work but I know I delivered my best and I appreciate my patients for recognizing that.” – Raymond Lee, D4“A few weeks ago, a patient passed on to me came in complaining of pain and a “bony piece” under his lower denture that had been bothering him for over 6 months. None of the previous dentists could see anything and radiographs were insignificant. Upon taking off the denture and taking another x-ray, we successfully detected a retained root tip that had been rubbing his alveolar bone for months. Working together, the attending dentist and I removed the root tip in minutes. One week later during his post-op appointment he expressed his undying gratitude for us in relieving him of months of discomfort. We have the opportunity to touch lives every time we step into clinic, and I am grateful for the skills I’ve acquired to treat patients in all capacities.” – Michael Nguyen, D3