Jessica Li is in the midst of her fourth year as a dental student at New York University College of Dentistry. Her latest blog, Painless Dental Appointments, covers a topic that is relevant to dental students and patients alike. Jessica recently spoke to THE NEXTDDS about her educational experiences at the nation’s largest dental school and how digital is shaping her future in the profession.
THE NEXTDDS: Dental school brings us all together into one intersection, yet we take different roads to this destination. What made you want to become a dentist?
JL: I actually didn’t consider going into dentistry until junior year of undergrad. But I haven’t had any regrets since deciding to pursue dental school. There are so many reasons dentistry works for me – it’s a people-facing career, you can educate patients and set them on a path to great oral health, and you get to be your own boss and business owner.
THE NEXTDDS: Is it generational?
JL: No, I’m the first dentist in the family. It’s nice to be the only person in the field because everyone asks you about their dental and oral concerns!
THE NEXTDDS: Having finished your third year, we’re interested in your patient experiences. Tell us about your first patient.
JL: The first patient I ever treated was a friend who needed her wisdom teeth removed. Completing the comprehensive exam and referring her case to oral surgery wasn’t so daunting. But compare that to the first time I ever gave a patient an inferior alveolar block for a restoration! That was nerve wrecking! It’s true what they say about experience – once you have enough of it, everything becomes easier and more streamlined.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s why it’s the ‘practice’ of dentistry, right? What aspect of dental school is the most challenging?
JL: Finding a new method of studying was the biggest struggle for me. I was always an independent studier and did not rely on study groups to understand and retain information. After my first year of dental school, however, I realized seeking help from peers and studying with classmates was one of the best ways to solidify the massive loads of information we are taught in dental school.
THE NEXTDDS: What roles do social media and educational sites such as THE NEXTDDS play in your dental education? How frequently do you access them for school-related activities?
JL: Whenever I feel like I lack resources on topics – such as implant placement, complex case management, how to start up and finance a business, I look to THE NEXTDDS for resources that could answer my questions. There are certain things that are not taught in our curriculum and it’s great to know there is an online platform such as the NEXTDDS that can help answer the questions I have.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s great. We have great contributors who help us every day—just like you do as Student Ambassadors. What do you envision your next five years of dentistry to look like?
JL: I am very interested in pursing a residency in periodontics following graduation. I can at least see another 3 years of schooling in my near future.
THE NEXTDDS: Fantastic! What clinical topics do you find most intriguing? Periodontology seems like a given.
JL: I am very interested in comprehensive care and how to integrate multiple disciplines of dentistry into one comprehensive treatment plan. For example, I currently have a patient who needs extractions, implants, bridge work, and possibly, a sinus lift. It’s fun to figure out a dentally sound and financially acceptable treatment plan for my patients and understand how to stage the treatment so that my patient receives treatment in a timely and efficient manner.
THE NEXTDDS: What clinical topics would be most beneficial to show in an animated or interactive format?
JL: I think videos on endodontic procedures, implant placement, sinus lifts, basically anything that is beneath the gums and invisible to the patient would greatly help us educate patients when discussing their treatments. Dental students and dentists often talk in jargon and it’s important that we rely our thoughts in a manner that is easily understood by patients. Often, imagery and videos are very powerful tools to aid patient education.
THE NEXTDDS: How has your experience as a Student Ambassador for THE NEXTDDS helped you network with your peers?
JL: My experience as THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador has opened doors to meeting peers in different schools, networking with professionals, and getting opportunities to represent NYUCD in different settings. The bond I’ve developed with other students through THE NEXTDDS is unrivaled.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s great—we love to hear that. Chief concerns about being a dental student?
JL: As a third-year dental student, I was primary concerned with my future steps: getting into residency and understanding the business models behind opening one’s own practice.
THE NEXTDDS: What do you enjoy most about being a dental student, or dental school in general?
JL: I love patient care and being able to take care of my patient’s oral concerns. It also brings me great joy to develop relationships with my patients that go beyond the dental clinic – for example, I dance on the side and my patients have even come to my performances to support my non-academic endeavors.
THE NEXTDDS: Thanks for your time today. We really enjoy working with you and appreciate your leadership as a Student Ambassador at New York University School of Dentisty and we look forward to our ongoing collaboration for the spring semester!