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My First Month In Dental School

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Welcome to Dental School! This post will be a reflection of my first month as a D1 at UCSF.

Orientation week:

Last first day of school picture! (Shout out to the UCSF Alumni association for these class sweatshirts). Orientation is a week long process aimed to familiarize you with your classmates with the landscape of dental school. Class from here on out will be from 8AM-5PM followed by a plethora of social activities to welcome you into dental school. You will also be exposed to the endless resources your school will have to offer you (ie. CalFresh, mental health and mindfulness services, etc.) Alongside many presentations, you will also receive your dental kit, bone boxes, and later on… your white coat!

White Coat Ceremony:

The white coat ceremony is a landmark day for you, but probably even more so for your family. Looking into the audience and seeing the priceless smile of my 87-year-old grandfather, a retired dentist, and veteran, meant everything to me. You’ll realize how incredibly diverse your class is by being in a room full of your colleagues and their loved ones.

And then the work begins…

Week 1-4: 

Every dental school will vary but in most cases, your first quarter will consist of something like:

Anatomy, anatomy lab, histology, patient-centered care, operative/morphology (sim lab), and evidence-based dentistry. Inevitably, I have spent many hours of my first month of dental school in anatomy lab dissecting a cadaver and learning the intricacies of the upper limb, head, and neck. (For all my Davis Aggies, CHA 101 prepares you more than you need for dental school anatomy- it’s the funnest time I had in undergrad. So if you can definitely take it!) The pro is that you are provided with UCSF scrubs to wear to lab everyday with a linen service provided by the school. Simply exchange your used for new ones. Another enjoyable factor of the anatomy lab is that the famous Roger Mraz’ office is down the hall, and he kindly leaves cookies for us after long lab days.

My favorite class is PRDS 116 which is dental morphology, operative dentistry, and biomaterials… aka what you went to dental school for. The developer of E-Tooth Anatomy visited our sim lab the first weeks of school to unveil VR glasses designed to allow us to rotate the different surfaces of a tooth with our phones. He shared that we were one of the first dental schools in the US with this technology so that was rad!

The Biggest Changes: Transitioning to Dental School

  • Time management! Gone are the days of undergrad with an assortment of three fifty-minute lectures once a week. In your first two didactic years of any dental school, you will gain a strong foundation in the biomedical sciences to prepare you for boards. A big change I’m still adjusting to is being in class from 8AM-5PM and managing a lifestyle outside of school. It’s easy to let the dental school environment consume you, but make sure to make time to visit your family if you’re local, explore your new home, and exercise! * At Research and Clinical Excellence Day, a D2 shared that dental students are the most depressed among all health professional students. Self-care is so important. I can’t emphasize that enough. 

  • Financial management: For a large number of dental students, this will be the first time taking out loans or finding other means to finance your dental education. There is quite a bit of adulting that goes on in dental school, and one piece of it is learning how to budget your money. A few tips: 

    • Look into service scholarships (Military HPSP, NHSC, etc.)

    • Loans: create a budget of how much you plan to spend per quarter (tuition, dental kit, living costs, food, social expenses) and don’t take out more than you need to avoid unnecessary interest

    • Meet with your financial advisor ASAP to discuss your budget and brainstorm the timeline of loan repayment.

  • Undergrad vs Dental School: In a recent interview, I was asked: “What gets you up in the morning?” Other than the fear of being late to a pop quiz at 8 AM lol, it’s the appreciation that we have the opportunity to learn from world-renowned researchers in the field that will ultimately be used for the remainder of our professional careers. A big change for me has been letting go of cramming information for the sake of an exam and learning to think critically about pathologies, etc.


  1. Everyone comes in with different strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are straight from undergrad and have a very strong foundation in anatomy and biomedical sciences. Others have been working in the dental profession for years as RDA, RDH, etc. and are extremely comfortable in sim lab. Collaboration and teamwork are key. 

  2. The dental school you attend maybe pass/no pass or graded. UCSF is pass/no pass which lowers the stress and anxiety of many students here. In the end, you will pass because of the unconditional support provided by upperclassmen and faculty and your desire to learn. Still, a lesson that I’m learning is that you will always be your toughest critic. Take time to accept your mistakes, and move forward! Dental school moves too fast to let yourself get hung up on one frustration.


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