By Nicholas Wright, second dental student, University of the West Indies (Mona Campus), Jamaica
Maintaining your well-being as a dental student is vital and takes much more effort than for the average student.
Regardless of your previous education, age or experience, dentistry is one of the most demanding fields of medicine. It can be emotionally, physically and spiritually taxing to dentists, specialized surgeons and dental students.
Here I share my advice and tips on how you can protect your personal well-being as you navigate through your dental student journey.
Physical well-being is fundamental in your success irrespective of what you are studying. At least 6-7 daily hours of sleep are ideal for you to sustain a maximum level of performance long term. Some dental students take short naps throughout the day to make up for lost hours of sleep. I sleep for five hours at night, then take two 30-minute naps the following evening during my study breaks.
Aim to avoid overuse of enhancement substances such as caffeine, steroids etc., these have long-term adverse effects, opt for natural enhancers such as vitamins and water to help maintain your efficiency.
Exercise is also a key factor in maintaining physical health. It increases the oxygen supply to the brain and therefore will improve your cognitive function.
Daily social interactions help improve your mental health. The concept of spending an entire day strictly studying is not sustainable throughout dental school. Create small goals in order to portion your workload, this way so you have time to speak to a loved one, rest, eat and exercise. Personal hobbies such as sports, art and movies contribute to a student’s overall morale and will lead to an improved attitude towards school.
Having a focused study group is crucial to excel in dental school as the workload becomes overwhelming. Make an effort to connect with classmates, as your weakness may be another person’s strength! It also helps to have a circle of friends with a common end goal of becoming an exceptional surgeon, you will continuously motivate each other along the way. Irrespective of your stage in becoming a dentist, it will never be a solo race, so it is important to work as a team player. All medical professions require you to be compassionate and charitable, so we dental students must begin by volunteering to aid our peers.
Another habit which also contributes to mental well-being is self-motivation. This is remarkably overlooked by the current generation, however, self-reassurance, even if unintentional, gives a huge boost to motivation in dental school. An example of self-motivation could be keeping a poster of your name with the ‘Dr.’ title and congratulating yourself for accomplishing small goals. Rewarding yourself gives you a greater incentive to work towards your next step rather than tirelessly working for years to be possibly honoured by the ultimate goal. Focus on the present and your future will fall into line.
My final tip is to aim for efficiency throughout your life in dental school. It may begin from building and sticking to a weekly schedule which allocates efficient time for intense study, with intervals for rest and socialization. Being disciplined enough to follow such a schedule means you are less likely to fall behind and miss deadlines. Make the most of your study breaks; rest, eat a meal or exercise. These activities are essential and you will feel less guilty by utilizing your breaks as best you can. As students of the demanding dental field, we must prioritize our academics over personal hobbies.
Our studies must always come first, but I hope these tips can help you create a healthy balance between school and your personal life. Let’s do everything we can to become the dentists of the future in a healthy way – and protect and promote our precious craft.
Dental Protection member Nicholas Wright
Maintaining your wellbeing as a dental student is vital and takes much more effort than for the average student. Make sure you don’t miss out by checking all your member benefits here.
Read the following articles for more examples of how we support our student members: