Sunday, July 31, 2005



Victory is Mine!

A quick snapshot of my impressions, taken with my mobile phone.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just my luck

The weekend before I have 3 tests on consecutive days (Mon Tues Wed) I come down with a full-blown cold. Brain isn't working at all. Will try to sleep and wing the Human Anatomy test tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Comments are back on

Whoops. For some reason, commenting got turned off. It's back on. Not that there are a bunch of people clamoring to leave me comments, but it would explain why my brother sent me an email instead of a comment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First Impressions

Until today, I did not appreciate the level of skill and technique required in taking dental impressions. It's a bit like making a soufflé. The process looks straight forward enough (mix alginate, load tray, pop tray into mouth, wait, pop tray out), but your technique and timing have to be just right, or the entire thing just might fail. For soufflés, you won't really know until the very end whether the damn thing will rise gloriously above the ramekin or whether your cursed pastry will deflate at the very end and become a flat, wasted mess of semi-fluffy dough. For dental impressions, the only way to achieve success is to pour the stone and crack the final cast out of the rubbery mold (the initial impression).

Today's assignment was to create 2 impressions of the upper jaw and one impression of the lower jaw. My final tally for today: 0 for 12 for the upper, 1 for 3 for the lower.

The mandibular arch impression (lower jaw) went fine. One for three is about average in my class, as far as I can tell.

But it took twelve tries for me to get a perfect mold of the upper jaw, and even then my instructor had to help me mix the alginate (putty) to get all the air bubbles out. Once it passed her inspection, I poured in the dental stone, worked out the air bubbles and waited for my cast to achieve the final set. Forty minutes later, it was done. With great trepidation, I retrieved my model from the shelf.

Then, I dropped it.

Thankfully, the only part that broke off was a small piece of excess stone from the back. It was definitely salvagable. In fact, there was a pretty good chance my creation would make it through unscathed.

Very carefully, I hammered away the excess stone and popped the cast out of the mold. It was beautiful. I could die a happy man.

Next stop: checking it off with my instructor. She turned it over in her hands, examining the margins and borders.

"That's pretty good," she said. "But what's that?"

Me: "Uh... what?"

That was a huge crack, scarcely the width of half a human hair, running from the back of the throat to the central incisors.

I pleaded, "It's okay, right? I mean, I can still trim it down... it'll hold right?"

"No, once you start getting those extra vibrations from the trimming process, it'll just grow bigger until it falls apart."


0 for 12, mate.

I'm batting worse than pitchers in baseball.

It's a good thing this isn't due until next week.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I am eating like a dentist

My last few meals have been criminally indulgent.

Last night was Carolyn's birthday, so we drove down to the Mission to eat at Spiazzino, a nice, quiet, and romantic little Italian restaurant. She was in the mood for Italian, the place was reasonably priced, and had plenty of seats available.

So, clearly, this was the ideal place for a mixed party of six rather talkative young adults to patronize at 9pm in the evening.

Yes, you read that right. 9PM in the evening. Within this particular circle of friends, our plans are always subject to revision.

How many times have we heard from the financial aid office that "you need to livelike a student, not like a dentist while you're living at school"?

Eh, once in a while is ok.

Pictures will be posted when time allows.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My flexor pollicis brevis is GINORMOUS

Growing up the son of a dentist, I had several opportunities to follow my father around and watch him do his work. It bored the hell out of me.

This was actually a major reason why I avoided dentistry for the longest time, despite my father's opinion that I'd find its unique blend of science, art, and business enjoyable and fulfilling. I'm more of a Macro kind of guy but not to the exclusion of Micro tendencies. I love to see the before/after pictures of a dental procedure, and I can still see and appreciate the miniscule differences that makes each tooth unique. I just don't have the patience to sit around and do it. For me, there are sexier things to watch than a Class III filling or a crown prep.

Today was the first day drilling with the handpieces. Our task was to drill down to a precise depth (1.25 mm), then even out the sides down to a depth of 1.75 mm, and then add a beveled edge around the edge of the tooth. I'm finally starting to appreciate the level of skill involved in preparing a tooth for even the most basic fillings. I'm able to see precisely - I can spot a crooked haircut pretty easily - if it's my head, at least - and I have a rough idea of which pen lines are 0.1 mm, 0.2, 3, 0.5 mm... But getting to the point where I'm drilling 1.75 mm precisely is another thing entirely. I haven't the hand skill to even smooth out the bumps on the floor of my prep without cutting into the sides and leaving little gouges in the walls.

The first prep went well. I managed to stay within the black outlines on our prep pad and turned out a decently hollowed out circle. Proud of my work, I moved on to other things. That's when the gouging and the cutting and the hurting began.

By the end of the lab period, I had ruined four decent preps. My thumb muscles were sore/borderline numb. And I still couldn't figure out the proper grip on my handpiece.

If this were private practice, that would translate into about 4 lawsuits and 4 pissed off patients telling 50 other people to go somewhere else.

One thing that I have to say: at UOP, the instructors go out of their way to keep a positive learning attitude. All throughout this week, they have been emphasizing that we are all considered doctors already - we're just in-training. They've been fostering a very non-competitive, nurturing atmosphere. "Don't compare yourself with your neighbors. Everyone learns at a different pace. Don't worry about your grades - they're just there to tell you which areas you need to work on. We're here to train and to graduate you. You're here to become the best dentist you can be."

This is such a change from undergraduate mentality, where everyone was fighting the curve and people were just pathologically competitive - at least in the Pre-Med program. In college, we'd ask each other about their grades, or their progress, and even study together. However, I still felt this sense of tension and envy even between classmates, some of whom I considered to be my friends.

Here at dental school, all that has seemed to have disappeared altogether. Being a valedictorian here doesn't mean you'll become a great clinician or an outstanding business owner. Getting straight C's doesn't mean you are an awful dentist and always will be.

Dr. Dugoni said, "when you graduate, you'll be a minimally competent dentist." Now, after tearing up my prep pad beyond repair, I'm beginning to see what he means.

This is only the beginning. There's no way I should expect to have the hand skills, artistic eye, or clinical judgement of an old salt of a dentist 20 years running. I'm here to build my foundations for a 30-year long career. Now I'm even more thankful that I took the Navy scholarship; I'll have 3 years to build my skills and learn everything I can before I set out on my own. And to think that I was thinking I'd open up my own practice and hanging up my shingle somewhere straight out of dschool. Ha!

Just you wait everyone. By the time this class ends, my flexor pollicis brevis will be GINORMOUS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wax Tooth

Holy crap, do you know how hard it is to carve a tooth? That's our first assignment in Dental Anatomy - Carve a tooth out of a solid block of wax. I thought it wouldn't be that hard. I mean, I can cook, so I thought I would have no problem working with my hands. I mean, I can dice an onion pretty decently into an amateurish brunois. I even remember my interviewer asking me what part of school would I have the least trouble with, and I told him confidently, "Probably the clinical aspect... I've seen a lot already and I'm comfortable working with my hands."

Boy was I wrong. This is hard. I've never taken a sculpture class; maybe that's why.

It took Aaron and me two hours just to get the rough outline down. I mean, really really rough. We even closed one eye and compared the wax block with the model, trying to get the angles juuuuuust so...

Then, we realized we've been carving out the wrong tooth.

It's a good thing we figured this out early. Our instructor told us to expect to spend about 8 to 12 hours carving the darn thing.

Anyway, it's good to make my mistakes early. Get the bad karma out of my system and learn to double check, triple check before starting on our work.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dental School, (Day 1 of 1085 (or so))

I can't believe I'm going to be a dentist.

Friday was the first day of UOP dental school. For the next three years, I will be in shirt and tie, shoes and slacks, studying teeth.

It didn't really hit me until I was sitting at my station in the Simlab. Each student was given a set of tackle boxes, some random bins, and two packing boxes full of dental supplies and equipment. This is all the equipment that we will be working with for the next three years. It took us four hours to unpack everything, sort them into our boxes and bins, and finally place everything in our cabinets and our shelves.

Dugoni spoke for two hours at our matriculation. A lot of his advice was prescriptive, but he had such a grandfatherly way of saying things that it didn't really bother me. Don't wear sunscreen. Always sit up front. Keep learning. Go to your classes. Always take notes. Take care of your ears. Don't smoke. Very inspiring, from arguably one of the most influential dentists in the past 70 years.

One thing he kept on stressing was the quality of education at UOP, how we would be getting a whole lot more clinical experience than our colleagues at other schools. He was telling us about the things we will do that most other graduates will have no idea about. Extensive education in dental practice management, drawing up a business plan, implants, Invisalign (!), endos galore...

The past few days, I've been meeting a lot of my classmates and some 2nd and 3rd year students. This, of course, entails a lot of eating out and bar-hopping. Although I enjoy a good beer as much as anyone, clubbing and bar-hopping have never been things I've done with any regularity. My guess is that it has to do with living with Asian Christian guys who (1) don't have much of a tolerance for alcohol and (2) don't really go bar hopping. Still, I've been really enjoying the past few days. I'm still self conscious when I dance, but it's fun. At least, I should say, it's fun when you're going with a bunch of people you know, or sort of know. I feel like I need to learn how to enjoy bar/club culture before I grow too old for clubbing. I already feel too old for raves, and that was after going to just one.

One image that sticks in my mind comes from the New Year's Rave at the Cow Palace (drug free rave, with the resultant low attendance). I never want to be one of those 50-year old men married to hippie chick wives with LED-bejeweled/glow-in-the-dark pacifiers in their mouths. I mean, come on guys. It's over. Unless you're a journalist covering the event, or you're a concerned parent chaperoning your children, you shouldn't be going to raves. And if you do, you are absolutely not allowed to suck on pacifiers with blinking lights. Save that for the fetish clubs, I tell you.

Anyway, apparently it's now a tradition for the 2nd years to organize a clubbing night the first Friday of the new year. We spent Friday night at the Dirty Martini, which was an interesting experience. At first, there were only UOP students lingering around the main stage. As the night went on, there reached a point where it was unclear who was who: UOP students arriving fashionably late or random folks coming in off the street. Once they started necking each other on the dance floor, or the men started dipping their dance partners and burying their faces in their date's breasts, it was pretty safe to assume that they were not UOP students who had just met for the first time 12 hours ago.

A lot of Mormons at UOP (BYU is a feeder school), a lot of married people, and a lot of guys. This year's class is 67% men, 33% women. Normally it's closer to 50/50 or 60/40. 142 in our class total, 96 are men. I predict a lot of drama will play out as the single unattached guys start jockeying for position among the few single unattached females.

More thoughts later...