Month: November 2016

Swagger: My Story Of A “Have To” Attitude

victory-in-dental-school-processI have had a few requests to share the story of how I got into dental school. I hope those of you who are struggling with your grades are inspired by this post. For those of you with decent grades, I hope this inspires you to keep up the hard work.

Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a dentist. When I was six or seven years old people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would answer sternly, “a dentist”. Often times they would be caught off guard and say “oh, that’s nice”. My desire to become a dentist stemmed from my uncle. He was one of the only family members (mom has 5 siblings and dad has7 siblings) that I knew of that went to college, let alone professional school. By the time I was in middle school I would write papers about controversial issues such as fluoridation or amalgam fillings. In fact, every time I was given the opportunity to write about something of my choice that’s what I would write about. I did this all the way through high school. I was confident that is what I wanted to do. If I had to shadow, I would shadow a dentist. I racked up a lot of shadowing hours at the local dental office throughout high school. I would ask a lot of questions like “what does it take to get into dental school?” The reply was always to get good grades and do extracurricular activities. My high school grades were decent but I was more into wrestling, water skiing, and motocross than anything else. By the time I was a senior I had taken AP classes, not because I was smart but because I wanted to be smart. I started taking classes at the community college, thinking I was getting a jump start on being a dentist. I chose classes like general biology, general chemistry, physics, history, and English. The system was quarters (3 quarters = 2 semesters of credits). By the time I graduated high school I had a handful of credits. Yes, I pulled off an A- in history and a B- in English. The science classes is where I struggled. I didn’t understand the concept of studying or going to class. Because I was taking classes at high school and driving 25 minutes to a class or two, I would often just skip thinking that an hour worth of driving isn’t worth an hour of class. Being a foolish highschooler, I assumed once you go to college you choose if you want to go to class. Not the case in my physics class. I was marked down 15% on my final grade for not attending. Despite getting a 92% grade on the tests and labs. This was the beginning of my C grades.

The following year (my first full year of college) I took classes, worked, and road dirt bikes. You can guess which one I spent most of my time doing. Yes, you got it! I road dirt bikes. In fact, while in my plant biology class we had a test coming up. I saved the day before the test for studying but an unexpected call came. I received a phone call from a guy that I had wanted to ride with for a long time. He wanted to go the afternoon before my test. You can only guess what I did. No, I did not study. I went riding. A lame attempt at studying included a short break in the woods looking at plants and jokingly naming different terms that applied to the test. Needless to say, I did not do well in the course. I received a B- in one of the three general biology courses and a C in the other two. At the same time, I was getting Cs in biology, I was getting Cs and Bs in Chemistry. I can’t forget to mention the F that I received in an online psychology course. Namely, due to the fact that I did not realize I was enrolled in it. At the end of the year, I had a little over 35 credits under my belt and a 2.9 GPA. Keep in mind that is my overall GPA, not my science which was much lower(science classes was what brought my GPA down).

Friends and family would occasionally ask me if I still planned on becoming a dentist. I would still answer with confidence and say “of course!”. But deep down I knew the path I was taking would not lead me to dentistry. I took a two-year break, which was spent in the Philippines. During this time I not only got a break from school but I was able to grow and contemplate my future plans. I knew that when I returned that I had no room for error.

I never was a straight A student. In fact, throughout elementary and middle school I took special learning classes. I was always a “wanna be” smart kid. When I returned it went from a “wanna be” to a “have to be” smart kid. My first semester back I chose non-science courses that I thought I could get As in. Sure enough, I put a lot of hard work into studying which resulted in straight As! This was the first time in my entire life I had ever gotten straight As.

The following semester I took Math, English, Statistics, and a few other smaller courses. With the same determination, as the semester before I received straight As. I was getting pumped! Taking a break from school did not make me any smarter. In fact, taking a break from school did not make want to be there more, it made me want to be there less. So what changed? It was my attitude! I went from casually going through school thinking that it would all magically come together one day, to realizing that my LIFE depended upon it. I still to this day believe this 100%. Without that attitude, one will be tossed to and fro and will end up where ever the current takes them. I was not that person that would be taken with the current. I had a destination and I knew that I had to reach it. I changed my attitude to a “have to” attitude.

With my new “have to” attitude on, I knew I was ready to tackle some of the upper-level biology courses. Yes, it had been 2-3 years since my last biology course but those were already done and I was ready to get on with my education. I began with a physiology course, histology, psychology, and a few filler courses. The physiology course was the one that was stand alone from anatomy. In fact, it was one of the most demanding classes at the school. Each test I “had to” get as many points as possible. There was no “oh well, I can get a few points back next time.” I spent 4 hours outside of class every day studying for this. We got to muscle physiology and the talked about an action potential. “Whats an action potential”, I asked myself. I did not know anything but I managed to score top 10 overall in the class on the tests, which was no easy feat. I “had to”. It was my only option. I tried just as hard in my other classes. I came out with all As and a B+. The B+ was physiology and was due to the lab portion of the class. I fell short of my goal, but in hindsight, it was a victory. That class prepared me to succeed in all other classes.

I knew that if I could get a B+ in one of the hardest courses at the school, then I could get in A in any other class that I take. And that was the truth! I took a long list of upper division courses including but not limited to; physiology, anatomy, histology, neurobiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, genetics, evolution, and I am sure more.

I excelled at biochemistry. By the time I took this, I was no longer at the “have to” stage, although I still felt the need to do well, but at the want to stage. I wanted to learn the material. At this point, the grades came easier. Finished at the top (top 3 or 4) of the biochemistry classes for that semester. I was hired as the one and only tutor at our school. The next semester I took a load of 17 credits and tutored on average 18 hours a week. I enjoyed just about every minute of it. Along with getting feedback such as “He is the best tutor at this school”, I was able to accomplish straight As. Note that by this time I was married and had a baby girl at the beginning of the semester.

That is a huge change from being single, taking 10-11 credits per semester, and receiving some Cs and an F. My GPA improved from the 2.9 to a 3.61 GPA. My overall science GPA ended up at a 3.42. My GPA at the four-year university was a 3.93 (in that ballpark). What changed? My attitude changed, and yours can too! There is nothing stopping you from getting the grades you need. Yes, we may have kids or unnecessary distractions but do you have the “have to” attitude? I have it and now I am in dental school!

Good luck to all of you who are still on your way to becoming dental students and dentists! I do realize everyone has different experiences in life, some more difficult than others but it is ultimately up to you what you make of it and what you want in life.



***I did not proof read this at this point. I will do so and make additions or subtractions as needed. Hope you enjoy!***

What We Wished We Had Known Before Dental School

Since I was accepted into dental school, I have had several pre-dental students ask this very question. What do you wish you would have known before dental school? Getting accepted into dental school is huge and is a big life-changer for most of us. There is a lot of excitement in the air leading up to the first semester of dental school, resulting in a small amount of uneasiness and anxiety. The unknown has always been a scary place to walk and all the information we can get will help the unknown become a little more known.

It goes without saying, that each of us has a different background and with that background comes different knowledge. However, my goal today is to present to you things that we, the dental students, wish we would have known before dental school. If you can take just one of the suggestions, and put it to good use, then my duty is done for the day.

The list will continue to grow as more suggestions come. If you are a dental student and have something you would like to add feel free to e-mail me at or leave a comment below. I cannot guarantee that everyone’s suggestion will make the blog but I will do my best to incorporate as many ideas as possible (keep in mind that it takes me a few days to approve comments). With your e-mail, include a brief description, your name (I will give credit to you for suggested idea), and school.

What We Wished We Had Known Before Dental School

1. Dental School is Awesome!

As a pre-dental student you have probably been told by an advisor, a friend, a dentist, or a dental student that “you are just going to need to get through the first two years” or “the first year is the worst, just get through it” and other such comments. Even when my first year in dental school was almost complete, I would still get those comments almost every week. Is it true that dental school is challenging? Of course, it is challenging. Is it impossible? Absolutely not! Or there would be no dentists in the world today. With that said, your first year of dental school is something to look forward to. I wish I would have known beforehand that I was actually going to have time to make friends and spend time with family! Plenty of time will be spent doing school work but there is going to be time to make new friends, enjoy hobbies, and spend time with your family. Now that is awesome!

DentalDat, IUSD Class of 2016

2. That I would rarely open a textbook

This may not be the case for everyone or every dental school but it is true for me. After I gained acceptance and the start of the semester grew near, the school began sending important things such as book lists. I spent hours looking for the cheapest way to buy the books. The total for the first semester ended up being right around a thousand dollars. I decided that it was not in our budget at the moment and would buy them as each class began. Boy, was I grateful that I did that!  After about a month of school, I realized that the professor’s powerpoints were sufficient and if I had a question either the internet or my undergrad textbooks would do the trick. One of the only books that I actually felt like I needed to buy were the anatomy texts. Other than that I have not spent a dime on a textbook. With that said, I do believe that getting the right supplemental books can aid in the study process (as you will read in number three).
Before you go out and start purchasing books, call/contact the upperclassman and get their advice on which classes you will need books for.

DentalDat, IUSD Class 2018

3. Spend your money on useful resources

This goes along with number two on the list. Just because you may not be spending hundreds of dollars on the recommended textbooks does not mean you can’t put that money to good use. There are plenty of good resources that can help make studying a little easier. Generally, these books have quick reference charts or condensed, easy-to-understand text similar to what you used for the Dental Admissions Test. A few suggestions include ADA/PDR Guide to Dental Therapeutics, The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy, Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple, and First Aid for NBDE Part1. Each of these books is reasonably priced and can be a tremendously useful source throughout the first and second year of dental school. Buying these beats buying a textbook any day of the month and makes for an easier and simple study session.

Idea submitted by:
Charli Steiner, IUSD Class of 2014

4. Taking notes

Having good notes and outlines is an important part of going to dental school but where do you start? Do you save all the Powerpoints to your computer and open each one in order to hunt down the slide you are looking for? Do you spend precious loan money printing out every sing slide before class? There are a few answers to this and a thousand different suggestions.

I submit that the easiest most efficient way of organizing and taking notes is with Microsoft One Note. Haven’t heard of it? Then you should check it out! You will have to open each PowerPoint and then print to One Note. Within One Note, you can organize them into semesters, courses, and modules. If you ever want to quickly check back to a previous lecture while studying just click on the appropriate tab. Don’t know which PowerPoint the information is actually in? Do a general term search and One Note will locate all of the slides with that term in them.

I wish I would have known about Microsoft One Note a long time before dental school!


Idea submitted by:

Anonymous, Future Dental Student
*A future post will include a tutorial on utilizing the features of Microsoft One Note. Check back in the future weeks for this one…


5. Oh, The Money!

For the majority of dental students, dental school will be too much to handle on the check book. Most of us recognize that we will be taking out serious loans, some more than others. That is not what I am here to talk about. I am here to talk about the hidden fees of dental school.  I wish I would have known about all of these fees and extra expenses! No, it would not have affected my decision to come to dental school but it would have affected the way I handle my money before dental school. While in undergrad I pulled out all the government aid my family qualified for and saved as much money as possible but by the time we were settled here in Indianapolis we did not have any extra money. With a spouse and 2 kids, the allotted amount is a little tight. I’ve made a list of some of the possible extra expenses to be aware of:

1. Moving Expenses: The U-haul alone can wipe out a good $800 + Gas. If you are going some distance, like my family did. Then you may need to spend a couple nights in a hotel which is another $100-200.

2. Housing Deposit: Some apartments may require a deposit along with the first rent.

3. First Grocery Bill: If you just moved some distance you can expect a large grocery bill the first time out. Fill those cupboards!

4. Decorating expenses: You just moved into a new apartment which means that you may need some extra lamps, new table, a study desk, a kitchen table, and possibly a washer and dryer. This all adds up!

5. School Fees: Yes, these are included and they take out the fees before they hand you the loan money. But what about class dues? Or books that you decided to purchase? Would anyone like a computer? Need a new backpack or some scrubs? This too all adds up!

6. Loupes: If you are not required to buy them the first semester, you will be looking to get these at some time during your first or second year. Loupes can run anywhere from $800-$1500+. Wait, don’t you want a light with that? That is going to be another $300-$600 depending on the light.

By knowing these hidden or unknown expenses you are able to budget and prepare properly. I have a family of three and it is difficult to fit in some of these costs. I am now saving up for a pair of loupes and will probably have to squeeze them into my second-year budget. If I was aware of some of these things and made a budget accordingly, I could have already had them!

Feel free to add to the list of hidden expenses by leaving a comment.

A Busy Week At Dental School!

You may have seen a typical dental school schedule or been given a summary of what a week of dental school is like but now you get to see how much material is tested over during an exam. This coming week I have 2 major tests. Some of my classmates have 3 because of an additional caries risk test (mine is the next Tuesday). Nonetheless, it is a busy and stressful week for the entire class. About 2-3 weeks ago we had a test that involved over 20 power points with a grand total of 1,200+ slides. I did not count the slides for this exam but it is a lot (don’t forget all the reading).
Exam 3 (Single Tooth Indirect)
Monday, May 16th
Book Readings
Dental Luting Cements

O’Brien: 134-149
Sturdevant: 224-228

O’Brien: 253-256

Gold Onlay
Sturdevant:872-76; 885-890

Casting Failures
O’Brien: 250

Resin Inlay Restorations
Sturdevant:228-31; 614-21

Gold Foil
Sturdevant: 919-926

Porcelain Laminate Veneers
Sturdevant: 648-50; 658-662

Manual Readings
Soldering a contact point: 383-384

Gold Onlay: 349-355
Resin Inlay Restorations: 341-343
Gold Foil: 402-413
Porcelain Laminate Veneers: 401


Gold Onlay
Resin Inlay Restoration (2 parts)
Gold Foil
Porcelain Laminate Veneers

Online Lectures

Dental Luting Cements

Casting Failures

The following is for the Triweekly which includes all classes except for our lab class.
Exam 7
Friday, May 20th
I. Cardiovascular Conditions of Concern to the Dental Professional Part I/II-Schaaf
II. Electrocardio – Gould
III. Myocardial Tissue – Gould
IV. Vascular Physiology Part I/II – Miller
V. Diseases of the Myocardium, Pericardium, and Aorta – Schaaf
I.Embryology Intro-Babler
II. Embryology Foregut-Babler
III. Embryology Midgut – Babler
IV. Embryology Hindgut – Babler
V. Anatomy-Babler
VI. Histology-Babler
VII. Physiology-Herring
VIII. GI Pharmacology (Monday?)
I. Intro to Radiology – Van Dis
II. Technology Based Caries Detection Methods – Ando
III. Caries Classification – Zandona
A total of 18 power points for this test. If you add the two tests together there is a total of 25 power points being tested over this week. That is a lot of material! I am sure I will survive but there are going to be a lot of late nights starting… now.