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A message for first-year dental students from a fourth-year...

12 July 2023

Uwais Joosub, fourth-year dental student at University of Western Cape, offers advice and wisdom to new students starting their journey at dental school. Instagram: uwais_joosub_

fourth-year student

As I enter my fourth year of dentistry I still look back at the 1st year beginners and think of how lost I was when I just started, so I decided to write this up to give some pointers to the youngsters so that we can keep on improving as dentists of the world.

1. Respect the profession 

This profession requires a lot of hard work and dedication, remember there are no shortcuts, as at the end of the day you are dealing with human life. Dentists are the primary health care workers - we're the first to diagnose many diseases due to the fact that the first signs of a lot of well-known conditions reveal themselves in the mouth. So work eagerly and diligently because you’re one of the few lucky people selected to practice this wonderful degree.

2. Humble yourself

Leave the attitude of you studying a superior degree than others behind. Believe that you can learn from everyone no matter who they are. Your supervisors are much more knowledgeable than you are, don’t be quick to criticize mistakes but rather learn and improve. A smart man learns from his mistakes but a wise man learns from others mistakes.

3. Dentistry is a community

You’re part of a community, your dedication is not only towards your degree but it’s towards your peers around you as well. The main purpose is to treat our patients in need with utmost care and this can only be done together. Consulting with one another and asking for help is the best way to obtain the optimal treatment plan for each patient, so learn from each other and most importantly laugh together, have fun together, because trust me dentistry is difficult but the laughter with your friends helps you get through it.

4. Earn the title

Dentist receive the title “doctor” once they complete their degree. During your degree you’re going to do a lot of medical modules that may seem futile to you as a dentist, trust me when I say I cannot overstate the importance of these modules. At the end of the day you need to be able to identify medications that your patients will be taking as well as the drug interactions from the meds that you will prescribe, this will all be learnt through pharmacology.

You need to be able to treat a patient that has fainted or begins to choke or even has a sudden onset of chest pain (angina), you will learn the management of this in emergency medicine. In principles of general medicine you will learn about various diseases and how to manage them when they present to you in the clinics, and trust me they will. These management skills earn you the doctor title.

5. Have fun

Dentistry is a mentally challenging degree, it has long hours and tireless studying, the only way to cope with this is to make the most out of it. I found that having a passion for dentistry and for working with people helps you to enjoy the degree. Make a good group of friends, since you’ll be seeing your classmates almost every single day.

Don’t study alone, make groups and make mistakes, laugh with your friends as this will make the extravagant amount of work seem light. Make videos, with patients consent off course, and teach others how much fun dentistry can truly be.