My first few weeks of dental school

The Class of 2018 joined the School of Dental Medicine in August. The new cohort rounds out the student body to now include all four classes for the first time in the school’s short history.

Olivia Roten

Olivia Roten

Each of the 26 men and 27 women in the Class of 2018 has a special reason for wanting to become a dentist. Many were inspired early in life by their family dentist and/or intrigued as teenagers by the orthodontia that aligned their teeth and gave them a better bite and more confident smile.

Olivia Roten is among the Class of 2018. She grew up in Stokes County, North Carolina, and attended North Stokes High School. In 2013, Olivia received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she double minored in chemistry and African American studies.

As a teenager, Olivia wore braces. Though the process of having her teeth aligned was tedious, she recalls feeling grateful to her parents and to her orthodontist when the braces came off.

“I was very appreciative of my braces and wanted to do the same thing for other people,” said Olivia. Though she is contemplating general practice dentistry rather orthodontics as a career, Olivia nonetheless is committed to serving the oral health needs of fellow North Carolinians. Currently, her goal is to complete a doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree and return to Stokes County to establish a practice.

Recently, Olivia was asked to write a blog post for the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) about her experiences in the first few weeks of dental school. Here is what she wrote:

Dental school: What to expect in your first weeks

Posted by Olivia Roten on September 11, 2014

It’s the first day of the rest of your life, and you have NO IDEA what to expect.

  •  “Will I make friends?”
  • “Am I smart enough to be here?”
  • “Are my professors going to like me?”

Those are just a few of the many questions that ran through my head as I began my first year at East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine (ECU SoDM). I didn’t have a clue about how the next few weeks would play out, but I hope my experience will give you some insight!

So, what should you expect?

  • Lots of teambuilding exercises!
    Our first week was orientation, and we spent much of this time doing icebreaker/teambuilding drills to get acquainted with our new classmates. Some of these exercises included scavenger hunts, ropes course obstacles, and community service projects. It was one of the most fun-filled weeks I’ve ever experienced!
  • Be prepared to make instant, life long, friends!
    One of the most unexpected experiences I had when starting school was the instant friendships that developed between my classmates and me. We’ve only known each other three weeks, but it feels like years, and we’ve already made a ton of memories.
  • You don’t learn about teeth in the beginning.
    The first few weeks of dental school are mostly review. You review anatomy, embryology, genetics, cellular structures, etc. So don’t be disappointed when you’re learning about fertilization instead of crown preparations—I warned you!
  • Dental school is a JOB!
    Unlike undergraduate, you no longer set your schedule or get two-hour breaks between classes. In dental school, you go to class from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with an hour lunch break) every day just like a job. Don’t let this scare you! We get 10-minute breaks at every hour to do whatever we want—including playing (yes I said playing) outside!
  • Lots of studying!
    Even though you’re in class about 40 hours a week, you still have to study! This is when time management becomes a real factor, and weekends become less fun.
  • Weekly tests!
    Now I can’t speak for every dental school, but at ECU SoDM we are tested every week. This has its advantages and disadvantages.

    • Advantages:
      • The material is fresh in your mind.
      • You don’t have time to get behind on studying.
      • No midterms/finals.
    • Disadvantages: You have a test every week.

Overall, my first three weeks as a dental student have been pretty amazing. At times it has been a little stressful and overwhelming, but the good outweighs the bad and it will all be worth it in the end!

The Class of 2018 participated in team building during Orientation Week in August

The Class of 2018 participated in team building during Orientation Week in August