In fall 2016, Christina Horton began her fourth year as a dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. Christina’s latest blog post, 10 Things I Learned at the Hinman Dental Meeting, can be seen on THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador blog page. With three years already completed at VCUSD, she has a great perspective on life in dental school and several of the challenges faced by today’s dental students.
THE NEXTDDS: What originally attracted you to dentistry?
CH: When I was 11, I avulsed teeth #9 and #10 playing flashlight tag. My dentist came into his office in the middle of the night to help me and reimplant #9. After that I was hooked!
THE NEXTDDS: That’s quite a jump start! Now that you’re in dental school, what clinical topics do you find most intriguing?
CH: I find special care dentistry very intriguing. I want to be able to incorporate special needs patients into my general practice, and I love learning about ways to modify your office and your practice to make seeing those patients easier.
THE NEXTDDS: What aspect of dental school has been most challenging for you?
CH: Fixed Prosthodontics. I had a prosthodontics faculty member who claimed to be able to look at your prep and measure it to the tenth of a millimeter. It was a very intense class that required a lot of extra work on the weekends!
THE NEXTDDS: We’ve heard that from students about preclinic instructors and other experienced faculty too. What aspect of dental school has been the most surprising?
CH: I'm surprised by how many friends I've made in dental school. I'm lucky to have so many wonderful classmates - we do our best to help each other out.
THE NEXTDDS: Yes, those relationships will carry forward for sure. What do you envision your next five years in dentistry to look like?
CH: I think digital scanning is going to become more and more commonplace. I also think we'll be using more intraoral photography to help education patients on their procedures and diagnoses. A lot of my patients go home and Google what I tell them, and most of them want me to show them specifically what I'm doing to their teeth.
THE NEXTDDS: What do you think will be the biggest material or procedural shift once you’re a few years into your career?
CH: I think I'll be doing less amalgam. Currently a lot of the posterior restorations I'm doing are amalgam, but I think I'll shift into more and more composite restorations in private practice.
THE NEXTDDS: Really cool. It’s a topic we cover frequently in THE NEXTDDS and I encourage you and all your readers here to review our diagrams and videos on direct resin procedures. That said, what’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you first started dental school?
CH: I wish I'd known to make clinical guides for each class. First and second year I just focused on getting through classes, and I didn't consider that a lot of the material would be very useful in the clinic. It seems obvious now, but I wish I had made myself guides of the key points in each class so I wouldn't have to be digging through old notes now.
THE NEXTDDS: If you could give one piece of advice to any dental student, what would it be?
CH: Step back and enjoy what you're doing. It's so easy to get bogged down in requirements and the day-to-day of clinic. I like to step back and remember how hard I worked to get into dental school and how much I want to be a dentist. I remind myself to take joy in what I'm accomplishing.
THE NEXTDDS: Well said for sure. What’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to in the dental profession?
CH: I'm most looking forward to being able to do more complex cases. I want to be able to take someone with reduced function and esthetics and help them enjoy their smile again.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s changing patient lives for the better—we applaud your goals! Thank you so very much for the time to share your experience with us, and for serving as THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador for this past year. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration and hearing of your continued successes—not just in the coming academic year but after your transition into practice as well!