5 Ways to Stay On Top of Your Dental School Requirements

October 25, 2019
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5 Ways to Stay On Top of Your Dental School Requirements

Clinic has finally arrived after 2 years of didactic coursework. All those nights in the library dreaming of doing your first root canal are suddenly a reality. Yet somehow you suddenly see yourself a week into clinic with no patients and virtually no roster. How can you turn this around? How does everyone else somehow seem so busy? I have, in no particular order, written up some guidelines on how to start your flow in clinic and how to stay busy to make sure that the end of your requirements can come just ask quickly as the beginning.

1. Know what your requirements are

It seems obvious enough, but when you have 50 things to carry at once, it is natural that one thing will fall. And in the case of dental school requirements, it will always feel like the hardest task to find. After watching a class matriculate in front of mine, it was actually heartbreaking to see students staying past their graduation date because tmmhey forgot to do a Class II competency when I know they have done 50 restorations over the previous 2 years. If these an exhaustive list of requirements are not readily available, be sure to get in touch with your class representatives and see if there is a document available with everything listed. As President of my class during our clinical years, I made sure that my team created a checklist of all requirements, competencies, and even a “suggested timeline” to keep my classmates on track. If it doesn’t exist—make one! Your class will love you for this!

2. Communicate with your Clinical Managers

There is nobody who has a wider net of communication than your clinical floor managers; they really do see all! I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with my classmates who need crowns/dentures/bridges, and I always ask them, “Have you spoken with your AC?” It is not a quick fix, and they cannot always pull root canal out of their back pocket. However, if you put your needs on their radar, they will remember you and make you a priority over people who are not speaking up.

This is especially true for prosth procedures, you have to communicate with your managers in a timely fashion so that they can find you a case as soon as possible so you’re not waiting on lab work past your graduation date—what a waste! When should you get in touch with your managers? For prosth, I think communicate by January before your May deadline.

I always tell my classmates, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed!” Dental school is full of life lessons, is it not?

3. Don’t be afraid to see Non-English Speaking Patients

This is a big one. Please do not duck and cover when there is a Spanish-speaking or other-wise speaking patient who comes into your clinic, especially in a time when technology is available to assist us. Being a Spanish-speaker has certainly enhanced my performance in clinic overall, but the truth is there really is no reason for anyone else to not be able to see these patients. Non-English speakers in particular are so thankful for any effort in communication that they will continue to come back and be some of your most loyal and dependable patients. And learning to additional ways communicate with a non-English speaker will certainly transfer over to your English interactions and make you a better provider. We should look for every opportunity to improve our communication skill set!

4. Follow up with your patients

Another one that seems obvious, but you have got to call your patients. Even if you haven’t spoken with them in a month or more, and last time you spoke with them they blew you off—it is always worth your time to give them a 2-minute phone call to follow up on their missing treatment. Your patients’ schedule and financial situations are extremely fluid. What was true 2 months ago may not reflect their reality anymore. Do a once-over on your roster once a month—you will be surprised what you will find! I cannot tell you how many times I have been thinking of a certain requirement, and after a quick phone call the patients will sometimes say, “I’ve actually been meaning to call you!” Maybe it only happens once out of every 10 calls, but sometimes you just need that 1 patient!

Don’t ever just wait for things to happen. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.

5. Be Present

And I don’t just mean sign in every day. Being in clinic is like any other job—for good things to happen, you have to put some work in. Just as you would prepare the day previous for a scheduled patient, you should also be setting goals for days you do not have a patient. For example, if your schedule seems light for the week, take a look at your roster. Make a goal to call at least 5 patients while you wait to be called to admissions clinic or urgent care. Make a goal to find a senior student doing a complex case and ask if they would like an assistant. You would be shocked how many 4th year students who are wanting to pass off valuable removable procedures but can’t make time to ask every 3rd year student want they want/need. Your manager certainly could randomly choose you to take a case a D4 does not need but again—make sure that those procedures go to you, first!

Always walk into your clinic with an action plan every single session. You pay a lot of money in tuition for your time, make it worth your while.


Dr. JoyAh Brooks

JoyAh Brooks is a 4th year dental student at New York University College of Dentistry. She is originally from Amelia County, Virginia. After completing her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Southern Indiana, she joined the 2012 Bay Area Corps with Teach For America. During her time in teaching in Oakland, California she taught 8th Grade Math and Science. After completing her commitment to Teach For America, JoyAh worked as a Dental Assistant and Patient Care Coordinator for Western Dental in their San Francisco and Hayward offices. JoyAh now lives in Manhattan and enjoys seeing the city with her husband, Gary.