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The life of a dental student

02 May 2024

Riya Hardev Gopal at University of the Western Cape shares a cross-section of life as a fifth-year dental student.


The life of a dental student is a challenging yet rewarding journey filled with rigorous academic studies, clinical training, and personal growth.  Here's a glimpse into what it's like:

1. Academic rigor

The dental school curriculum is demanding, encompassing a wide range of subjects such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, dental anatomy, histology, pharmacology, and more.  We often spend long hours attending lectures, participating in laboratory sessions and studying independently to master the material.

2. Clinical training

As we progress through our dental education, we transition from classroom learning to hands-on clinical experience. This involves practicing dental procedures under the supervision of experienced faculty members.  Clinical training includes tasks like taking patient histories, conducting examinations, performing cleanings, administering anaesthesia and eventually, more advanced procedures such as: fillings, root canals, and extractions.

3. Balancing act

We must learn to balance their academic responsibilities with other aspects of our lives, including personal relationships, extracurricular activities and self-care. Managing time effectively becomes crucial to stay on top of coursework while maintaining overall well-being.

4. Professional development

We are not only learning clinical skills but also developing professionalism and communication skills essential for interacting with patients and colleagues.  In addition, we learn about ethics, patient management, and effective communication techniques, preparing us for our future roles as dental professionals.

5. Clinical rotations

In later years of dental school, we generally participate in clinical rotations at affiliated dental clinics or hospitals.  These rotations provide exposure to different patient populations and dental specialties, allowing us to gain a broader perspective on the field of dentistry.

6. Challenges and growth

The journey of becoming a dentist is not without its challenges.  We often face academic pressure, clinical performance anxiety and the stress of preparing for licensing exams.  However, overcoming these challenges fosters resilience, confidence and personal growth, ultimately shaping us into competent and compassionate dental professionals.

7. Sense of community

Despite the demanding nature of dental school, students often find a sense of camaraderie and support among their peers. They form study groups, collaborate on projects, and lean on each other for encouragement and advice, creating a strong sense of community within the dental student body.

8. Looking ahead

Throughout their dental education, students are constantly looking ahead to their future careers. They may start planning for residency programs, exploring different dental specialties, or considering opportunities for further education and professional development beyond graduation.

In essence, the life of a dental student is a challenging yet transformative experience that prepares individuals for the responsibilities and rewards of a career in dentistry. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a genuine passion for improving oral health and serving others.

Riya Hardev Gopal, Fifth-year dental student, University of the Western Cape
Instagram: dentist__ri