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5 tips for dental school I wish I had known sooner

30 November 2022

Kiara Nilraj (Instagram: @kiara.nilraj), fifth year dental student at University of the Western Cape runs through her list of 5 key tips she wished she known when starting her training. 

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1. Sleep!

It might sound obvious, boring, or even impossible but the one thing I wish I did was maintain a healthy sleep schedule. There is nothing worse than arriving to clinics exhausted and having to suffer through my day and not give my patients the care they deserve. I also found out far too late that sleep is a more effective use of time for studying than pushing through an all-nighter.

Studies have shown how drastically negatively affected your brain is when losing even a small amount of sleep. Setting a fixed routine, with structured study and sleep over a long period of time felt like a cheat code when it came to passing exams effectively.

2. Get a stress ball 

I know it might sound a bit strange but besides the obvious reason of reducing stress whilst doing my degree, it also helped with my grip strength. This also comes in handy for extractions and combatting wrist fatigue. 

3. Having A LOT of inexpensive pens

There was NOTHING I dreaded more than going to write my notes or going to sign my quota book and not finding my pen. I would then have to go and beg my classmates and even supervisors to borrow their pens. I found throwing in a bunch of pens into my oral hygiene kit, toolbox, or pocket to be a life saver. Why inexpensive pens you ask? Because let's be honest, you're going to lose them eventually. 


It's inevitable that you're going to lose something despite how meticulous you are. It could be your clinical notes or a blowtorch you lent to a classmate. Just do yourself a favour, and put your name on it so it's easier to track down later. 

5. A digital organiser

Use Google calendar, your notes app or even take photos. We all have our phones on us 24/7, thus giving us quick and easy access to the information we need. It's a lot easier to type something quickly on your phone than to pull out a physically planner and paper. Make sure you have your patient's name, file number and contact details. Having a digital planner really helped me stay organised, plan out my clinical sessions and easily book my patients. It especially came in handy when I had to reorganise and rebook patients as I could just edit and delete my entries.