Onwards and upwards to the next chapter!

Woo it’s finally arrived – GRADUATION day. Second degree finally accomplished and what a hectic yet superbly wonderful and life changing 4 years it has been.

It would be utter lies if I said it was plain sailing throughout. Amongst the incredible and enjoyable times, amazing colleagues and inspirational tutors, laughs and wonderful experiences there has also been failings, breaking points, times when I’ve been pushed beyond my comfort zone, thought I’d reached my limit and “this is too hard” moments. But it’s within this moments and low points that I learned the power of perseverance and friendship. The struggles served only to strengthen and reinforce my belief in both myself and those that support me. And, without these moments, I could not wholly revel in the journey and accomplishment today.

Thank you so much to my family and friends who have offered me their unwavering support (and finances!), to my colleagues who pushed me and helped me through the last 4 years, to Kings College London for the opportunity to push me beyond what I thought would be possible (all the while reminding me that I’m at “one of the top university in the world and one of the top dental schools in the UK”) and finally to Andy, who simply is the hero in my story.

The qualification I’ve gained at the end of all this is by no means the end, but merely the dough to which I may use to design and decorate my own masterpiece, and to shape and sculpt as I please. It’s an exciting and daunting time, a time to embrace the new challenges and the new unknowns. I’m reminded not to be fearful, but instead, to welcome fear, because fear challenges us, it sharpens and shapes us and dares us and makes us more resilient. Running away from fear only means we lose out on the opportunity to be our best selves.

Congratulations to everyone at King’s College London Dental Institute who also graduated today! Class of 2014! Now that this chapter has been given it’s successful ending, it opens the door to more dreams, more mountains and more boundaries.

Onwards and upwards!






A world of goodness

Sometimes when I pause for a moment I often wonder if there was more good I could have done today. Could I have taken time out to help someone? Was I too quick to judge? Was that gossip any of my business? Could I have done more? Or better? Did I do enough? Or spend enough time listening? Could I be a better daughter, sister, girlfriend or friend? Was I selfish?

Everyone is self indulgent from time to time, and if we pause every once in a while to be grateful for the things we have rather than agonise over the things we don’t have, our lives could be brighter and more meaningful. A small act of kindness can perpetuate into something big and wonderful. So go spread some sunshine, you know you want to!

A week with Adam’s Dental

As part of my elective this year I spent a week with Adam’s Dental in North London. I wanted to see what real life general dentistry was like outside the bubble of dental school, and to get a real feel for time and patient management within a busy and well established practice. I also wanted some insight into the day to day running and management of a practice.

So just a brief background, Adam’s Dental is a mixed practice taking on both private and NHS patients, and along with general dentistry, the practice also offers specialist services in implants, bone augmentation, sedation and hypnosis. Along with dental aesthetics, patient’s seeking to maintain/improve the appearance of their facial aesthetics non-surgically, can do so synchronously with Dr. Ricky Adams.

My week

It has been a gloriously hectic week, and I have seen some spectacular composite work and exceptionally beautiful smiles leave Adam’s Dental during my week here. It was particularly lovely to see such a close knit team working harmoniously and effectively together. The dental nurses and reception staff do a tremendous job of keeping everything ticking over, always smiling and welcoming even though they are the first to arrive each day and last to leave. At dental school, you are taught the importance of team work, and on clinics you only really get a vague idea of it, however I hadn’t realised how detrimental it was, until I observed a busy team working remarkably hard to ensure the seamlessly smooth and efficient running of a practice. Emergency appointments and over running were swiftly and what appeared to be, effortlessly managed (I am absolutely petrified about my own time management, but I guess that comes with experience and practise).

I had the pleasure of observing both Dr. Alex Adams and Dr. Ricky Adams work. Having owned and worked at the practice for over 30 years, Dr. Alex Adams was full of very wise advice for me. His attitude towards minimally invasive dentistry, and his approach to ethical treatment planning and patient care was exceedingly admirable. As with any new situation or environment, the first day in any new place is bound to be daunting and awkward (for me anyway, and if you are an introvert like myself, you’ll be familiar with plenty of bathroom breaks to try and think of something intelligent to say!), but to my relief, Dr. Alex Adams is the type of person whose presence alone can put you at ease. This combined with an almost hypnotic tone, gleeful smile and light hearted conversation, it’s not surprising that even the very nervous of patients are soon feeling a lot more comfortable and relaxed. It was mesmerising to watch him both work and communicate with patients. After spending time with Dr. Alex Adams, I’m very excited to go away and put to practise some of the new skills he has kindly passed down to me, next term. With such excellent teaching skills, I only hope he dabbles in some teaching one day.

Dr. Ricky Adams, brings a very refreshing and vibrant atmosphere to the practice, especially with his expertise in facial aesthetics. It was exciting to watch Dr Ricky Adams at work, and I got to see a few of his cool gadgets! It was particularly invigorating and wonderful to experience the animated personality that would come out as soon as a child patient walked into the room. His ability to get the very nervous of children to sit in the dental chair and receive treatment was really something to learn! I was also fortunate to observe some facial aesthetics sessions too. The scope of practise once qualified is astounding, and I am very much looking forward to learning more about facial aesthetics with the hope of one day adding this to my skill set.

Now with only one academic year left before I qualify (fingers crossed), and after having a taster of what dentistry could be like, I am immensely excited to embark on the next stage of my dental journey. I am under no false pretence of the reality of dentistry, or the stress, work and dedication that is required, in fact I welcome it. The hard work will keep me grounded and allow me never to take things for granted.

If you interested in any aspect of dentistry, either as a patient or prospective dental student and want to find out more, click onto Adam’s Dental for more information.

I want to thank Dr Alex and Ricky Adams, and the team at Adam’s Dental for being so hospitable, open and helpful. It was a real eye opener, and I hope I get to see much more of the future!

To find out more about Sheila

Happy Birthday to Andrew!!

Andrew - Dan and  Nats Wedding

Andrew – Dan and Nats Wedding

It’s Andrew’s BIRTHDAY! Woo! I have publicly dedicated this blog entry to him, so be warned, I’m about to grace you with one of those nauseous, public displays of “she’s one of those people I cross off my news feed, bore off” type post. You’re about to delve into the gooey, nauseating depths of my mind, so if this stuff makes you want to tell me to “do one”, I suggest for the sake of our friendship, you stop reading about here (unless you’re on the fence about hitting the “delete/unfriend” button, then perhaps this could be the last straw). If however, you wish for some insight into why I am so dedicated to this remarkable man, then please, read on!

Dear Andrew, my incredibly wonderful and extraordinarily patient, tolerant and kind boyfriend. I wanted to write you something poetic for your birthday, but found myself restricted to cheesy rhyming words, which did not allow me to freely depict how much you really mean to me, so I decided to pour my heart into this; what should be a short passage, but knowing me very well, will be like the answer to an essay question (last minute, wordy and excellent).

I’m not going to pretend that I wake up everyday realising how lucky I am, or that we are the world’s greatest couple, far from it actually. With the weather being so hot recently, I’m going to bed most nights flustered and sweaty (with you seething about my insistence for the extra extra thick carpet), so the lack of sleep, if anything, makes us both unbearable in the mornings. That said I do know how lucky I am, especially when I sit and reflect during times like this. I’m not lucky because you love me, or because you respect me. Neither because you treat me well nor because make me happy.

They’re all expected.

Vietnam, enjoying a cooling drink

Always fooling around

I’m lucky because you try to understand me (some days you have to try extra hard, which I am fully aware is not without effort), because you’re composed when I’m losing it, because you can compromise when we disagree, because you make a conscious effort to do all the small things that does not go unnoticed, like get out of bed every single morning and bring me a cup of tea (most mornings whilst still half asleep), buy me a flower for no reason, other than because you have spare change in your pocket, run me a bath when I feel stressed, or unwell, offer to feed me when I’m being grumpy, eat my leftovers and pay for me to have something fresh for lunch, because I struggle to eat the same thing twice in a row. It does not go unnoticed that you always do all the washing (clothes and dishes) without ever complaining, or that you pick up Whiskee’s poop so I don’t have to. You write down all the things that you notice I take an interest in or think I’d want on the iPhone app that you think, I don’t know about, and you put up with the public commentary I seem to run about our life (like now). It’s the little things, every single day that you do which makes being with you so phenomenal. I’m lucky because you support my decisions and encourage my dreams no matter how far out of reach they seem to be. I’m lucky because you are a remarkable judge of character and your closest friends are all inspiring and wonderful.

I know how hard work I must be from time to time, and it can’t be easy to be with someone who internalises everything to the point of imploding. Who finds it easier to write personal things down than talk them through (as demonstrated here), but will jabber on endlessly about randomness. I am aware of my flaws, as you are too, and I love you because you don’t throw them in my face when we fall out. It would be deluded of me to tell you that I’m never going to let you down, or that I will always love you and will never leave you. Those are things that I cannot be certain of and I can only hope they always hold true. However, I can promise you that as long as I am committed to you, I will never dishonour or disrespect you, deceive or deny you of the person you deserve. And should that commitment ever change, I will always be open about it to you.

Andrew with Sofia - a natural with the kids

Andrew with Sofia – a natural with the kids

I am a better version of me because of you, better because I want to be the very best that I can be for you (although I haven’t quite gotten there yet). I’m still a massive work in progress. You however, are perfect for me, undoubtedly, a gentleman, gracious and caring, forgiving and dependable. Do not ever change a single thing (except for the points we’ve discussed already). It baffles and bewilders me how calm you remain when I’m hysterical (and yet freak out because you were going 32mph in a 30 zone!), how great you are at managing your finances (and when you get arsy when I wait for a reminder then a red letter before I pay a bill) and how you don’t mind turning up 45 minutes early (whereas I always plan it so I’m just in time). But all these little quirks, have made me a tiny bit better (I am now very chilled (and act hysterical in private), slow down when you’re in the car, or don’t moan about your slow driving, hide the bills and none of the clocks in our house tell time consistently). Like I said, still a work in progress.

Super organised

Andrew’s super organisation skills – suitcase map

Dr. Seuss said that “you know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams”, he sounds like he had insomnia. I sleep really well at night. But I know I must love you because your happiness is essential to mine, and because I would share my wealth with you, my health with you and my soul with you. So when we have our disagreements, and I’m going off on one like a psycho on the blob, I hope you can turn to this to remind you how much you mean to me, and to find the strength to power through my exuberant rage, relentless outbursts and irrationality (which doesn’t happen as often anymore). You are my world!

I want to wish you a very happy birthday, which of course, without this day you wouldn’t be here, and I would be the version of me that existed before you arrived, which was significantly more psycho than the me today.

Gemia Island - Paradise!

Gemia Island – Paradise!

Applying for dentistry – surviving interviews!!

So, you’ve spent what probably seems like a life time trying to write the perfect personal statement where you have successfully shown you could be the ideal candidate as you have figured out the knack of balancing a passion for dentistry, with determination and drive, with compassion and a realistic view of the dental profession, and most importantly you have shown that you can juggle hard work and have a normal life at the same time (that is, your extracurricular activities and hobbies). ‘

After dedicating some many months of researching the profession, work experience and ways to make yourself more desirable for the admissions team (volunteer work, work experience, shadowing, research projects, sports and so on), you finally get the letter about the crazy, exciting, scary, makes you a little bit sick,second stage – the interview. For those of you who have gotten this far, congratulations!! Your application is one of the ones that stood out from the many hundreds of others who applied. But you’re only part of the way there and now it’s time to knuckle down and start preparing for what could be the final hurdle, if you haven’t already done so!

If you are still yet to apply you may want to read “Applying to Dental School” first.

The interview – what does it mean?

If you are at this stage, it is pretty obvious the admissions team feel that academically, you are cut out for their course. They want to see what YOU are like, whether you have realistic views of both the course and the profession and whether you would fit in amongst the other students. They want to know why you would like to do THEIR course and what makes you stand out from the other interviewees. This stage is about YOU, and a lack of preparation, passion and an appreciation for the demands of the course will NOT go unnoticed, so start swotting up!


“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability.We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation” Thomas Edison

Prior to applying, you should have already researched the universities in which you intended to apply to, so in theory you should have a general idea of each of the universities and a bit about the cities they are in. What you ought to be doing now is thorough research about the university itself, the course and some basic dental knowledge (let me stress the word basic! – after all, the idea of doing the course is to learn it later on, so do not go mad and stress yourself out! – try to enjoy your summer!). It would be wise to have a clear idea of:

1. The course: what type of course is it? is it problem based learning? Does it have a lot of clinical learning? How does the course compare to other universities? Are there any particular aspects of the course which interests you? How will you be examined? What attracts you to their course?
2. The location: what is the city like? What attracts you to the city? How far is it from your home?
3. NHS Vs Private dentistry
4. Why you want to study dentistry, what skills you have that might make you a good dentist
5. How you manage stress and failure
6. What you learnt during your work experience, what you saw during your work experience
7. What “The First Five Years” is and who the GDC and BDA are
8. Major recent changes in dentistry: NHS contracts, New Dental Contract Pilots, Direct Access
9. Your strengths
10. Some dental ethics such as professionalism, confidentiality, drug abuse etc

Practising interview technique is very useful, record yourself and watch it back if necessary, reflection allows us to improve! Most people do not like watching themselves on camera but I have found it to be a very useful tool to reflect on the way I carry myself, my body language and posture (just make sure you hide/delete the videos unless you like the surprise of seeing it on YouTube!).

Initially, I had intended to write a very thorough blog entry detailing interview preparations, but a fellow King’s student, Sadhvik, has done such an incredibly wonderful job already, leaving else little for me to add! You would be insane to go to an interview without having read this:

A Dental Applicant’s Guide to Getting into Dental School: The Interview

It is an extremely thorough and well researched post for prospective dental applicants, covering pretty much all you need to know about the interview! Amazingly, he’s done all the legwork, so all you need to do is get comfy, count your blessings and enjoy the read!

That’s all I’m going to say about the interview stage. Before leaving it there, I just wanted to mention; believe in yourself and always be positive, because if you have no reason to believe in yourself, why should anyone else? There are many ways to do what you want to do, and the most obvious way isn’t the only way. Learn from unsuccessful attempts, harness your strengths, change the way you think about your weaknesses and be prepared to work hard for what you want. Your attitude defines you, your experiences mould you, your weaknesses make you human.

Good luck!

To find out more about Sheila

Meet Whiskee, our new little addition

Say hello to Whiskee! She’s our little pup and she arrived 6 weeks ago. In the midst of exams (probably the worse time), she was the perfect destressor (but also a major source of distraction!) and its been such a delight coming home to her after a hard day’s work.

Like many responsibilities, it has been a steep learning curve (and I’m still learning) from getting her to do 1s and 2s outdoors, to teaching her new tricks. So far its been 6 weeks and although she has learnt to “be quick” (my command to get her to do 1s and 2s) outside, she is still having the odd accident indoors which at times can be very frustrating, but apparently puppies do not have full bladder control til at least 6 months old! (Blegh!). I love coming home and being greeted by an excited little ball of fluff! Such a joy!

It’s not easy having a puppy though, the first week consisted of sleepless nights, waking up every 2-3hrs to rush her outside for pees and poops (for Andrew that is), and not leaving her alone for more than 3hrs. She needed constant undivided attention in the first 2-3 weeks, which at times was quite tiring. With the sleepless nights, it started to get very difficult. We crate trained her, so she was in the crate when she could not be watched, and was out let to roam free when we could keep an eye on her. Thank god circumstances were such that Andrew was not working for that first month, otherwise it would have been impossible. That’s not all though, you can’t leave them cooped up when you’re gone for the day, so we’ve built her a little kennel outside. She never goes in the kennel though!! We’ve also put a doggy door into our shed which she has all to herself. The shed is carpeted for her so its more homely, and we have a little radio on in there too. She seems to prefer the shed much more (shock!) but if she knows we’re in the house she just sits right by the back door. She’s not an outdoor dog though, she only goes outside when we’re not in the house during the day, it means she doesn’t have to be cooped up indoors. I’m starting to think we need another little puppy though so they can keep each other company when we’re not around! (Andrew hasn’t quite warmed to that idea..yet).

I started clicker training quite early on to teach her tricks, and so far she can sit, lie down, leave, give paw, roll over and play dead – here’s a sneak peak:

I was pleasantly surprised as to how quickly she picked up new tricks, taking only a day or two to learn. Clicker training definitely is a winner!

So before getting a dog, remember they are a huge responsibility and commitment. They demand a lot of time, attention and love, and they also cost a lot of money (insurance, flea treatment, worming etc). If you can commit to that, then you are in for bags of fun!! Currently, I’m trying to teach Whiskee a trick a week, as well as train her to be loving and not jump up on visitors (the most difficult part!). So far its all going very well! Some parts are slower than others, but there is definitely progress! Hopefully I can get her to do some really cool stuff by the next post! 🙂



Final year! I made it!

Finally..FINAL year!! Woo!! What a massive relief. I feel so blessed to be doing something I really love and enjoy. And now only 1 more year to go before I can say I have a job (provided I get a job! – fingers crossed). According to last year’s final year, this last year is a roller coaster of exams, interviews, time management, patient management, quotas, paperwork and fantastic experiences. I’m so excited!

After getting our results, we go straight into final year mode before breaking up for summer, and I must say, so far it’s looking promising. This is a year to consolidate learning and put to practise all the skills I’ve picked up and worked very hard to get good at (some aspects have taken a lot more motivation than others *ahem, perio* :p ).

Hopefully my elective over the summer will open my eyes to the real dental world, both here in the UK and in another country. I’m hoping I am able to experience dentistry not only in all its glory, but also in the difficulties and challenges a practitioner faces.

I cannot begin to describe how ridiculously excited I am to finally embark on this final studying hurdle, but I know the learning only truly begins after I graduate and enter the world as a newly qualified dentist. And, from what I hear, the fun begins after I start practising, and seeing as I’m having so much fun now, I feel dizzy with glee about hereon in!

So far in my journey, there has been some ups and downs. The ups keep me going and reinforce my passion for this career, the downs challenge me and prevent me from becoming complacent, and encourages me to continue with seeking a better understanding and personal development.

It’s taken me a lot longer compared to most, to get to where I want, which ironically changes the instant I arrive. But, this solidifies my belief that nothing is impossible as long as you are patient and willing to work hard. And when you succeed in one part – it opens the door to more opportunities and more dreams. Bigger dreams, better dreams, dreams you didn’t think were possible.

I am a believer in self sufficiency and hard work, and so long as you are willing to do the ground work – the world is full of endless possibilities. The walls we put up can only be knocked down by ourselves (sometimes with a little help from others). And when we remove these barriers, things can only look brighter. I live by the belief that thinking well, leads to acting well, and acting well surrounds you with happy and good people. It is these happy people, that will bring you out of times of darkness. And what about the things we can’t change? For these, we have two choices, fight it or change the way we think about it. These are the simple rules I live my life by. That, and karma – everything happens because you deserve it – if what happens is bad, then it’s because you needed to learn from it, either that or you can let it destroy you.

I am very grateful to my loving family and wonderful boyfriend, who have all supported and encouraged me to embark on this journey, even though at times, my being a “student”, impacted their pockets. Hehe. I am also grateful to my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, new and old, who have all helped me along the way, encouraging me to persevere, supporting me in times of need, offering “pearls of wisdom” when I falter and most importantly, making this all the most fun I’ve had so far! Having all this support has helped me develop personally, and discover strengths I never knew existed. I initially started this blog so I could document my journey, however with the constraints of time it’s not really turned out like that. Now I hope I can use this blog as a platform to encourage and help other young dentists in training.

Gosh I’ve gone off on a philosophical tangent haven’t I? I think that’s enough motivational, positive talk for one night. So again, yay!! Final year, finally!

S x

My nitrous oxide experience

I just realised that this has been sitting in my drafts all this time! Doh! Anyway here was an account of my first inhalational sedation experience:

Today we had our first session on inhalational sedation, an adjunct used in dentistry on children and nervous adults which has an anxiolytic effect. Don’t worry, I shan’t bore you with the pharmacology and what not, I’m just going to tell you about my experience with nitrous oxide (or “happy air” as we tell the kids).

I had high expectations for this stuff if I’m honest, all week I’d heard about fits of giggles, some analgesic effects, “floaty” feeling, “heavy” feeling, “tingly” feeling, a fellow colleague even described it as “similar to being high”. I’ve managed to go 27 years without ever touching recreational drugs, so I have no idea of what feeling “high” feels like (in my mind it sounds like standing on a bridge and looking down – which if that’s close, I don’t think it’s for me), but this, in a safe, controlled environment? Hell yeah, let’s give this nitrous oxide a go!

See the problem was the expectation of feeling something spectacular, which I’m disappointed to report, nitrous oxide had no profound effect on me in the concentration I was given. I was more relaxed, and my eyes did get a bit heavier (kinda like the feeling when your eyes are closing and you are falling asleep but you don’t want to and you can hear everything going on around you but you can’t really take part in it) but that was literally it! Mega disappointed. Anyway, besides the point, I can see why it would work on nervous patients receiving dental treatment. I guess you would have to be nervous in the first instance for the effects to seem bigger.

Part of the conscious sedation experience, is also the giving it to another student. A big part of the process and success of inhalational sedation relies on psychological suggestion, so you have to speak to the patient and tell them to relax. You have to tell them a story. My story telling unfortunately, was not up to scratch, as my story progressed, I was very aware of it starting to head towards a “saucy” end, so had to back track and then got thrown of track. I think the parents out there would make better story tellers so I’m going to seek some advice!

Update: most my stories start with being at a beach with the sun setting, with the water rushing in and out, in and out and then… I get stuck!

It would be great to find out what other people do to try and relax their inhalation sedation patients.


Life oh life

So its been some many months since I last blogged anything, but I’ve been super busy. Myself and my very wonderful boyfriend are embarking on a “home owning journey”! Soooooo excited! Ever the keen researcher, I even went out and purchased “Home Buying for Dummies”, yes that’s right! – admittedly I had mistakenly purchased the US version so a lot of the stuff didn’t really make sense (“escrow”). Anyhow! I deciphered it and managed to get the builders to knock £30K off the asking price! (Great negotiating skills eh? – all that bartering in Thailand has taught me a thing or two, even though its completely different and totally on a crazy scale, still £30K off!). I was somewhat very pleased with myself, and this lasted all of 2 weeks, until we  bumped into our “neighbours” when we went round to measure up the flooring, only to find that they had also negotiated the house price down by £30K plus they had the downstairs flooring thrown in. Fuming! I guess it was because I was way too excited that the agent  had quickly taken the offer to notice that they had done so without much hesitation – note to self, always remain calm and refrain from showing TOO much interest. Ah well, that’s how we grow wise right?, and “learn lessons” – I can now pass this new piece of wisdom onto someone else, so not all is lost.  A new brand  house! So so so excited! I’ve been negotiating  flooring and labour, researching underfloor heating, dining tables, kitchenware (the best part!! – I can spend weeks (and I have done) doing this), sofas, fitted wardrobes, non fitted wardrobes (I fainted when I realised how much fitted, made to measure wardrobes cost), rugs, mirrors, lighting (check out Philips Hue!! A-MAZING!), steam cleaners, you name it, I’ve researched it. Its consumed my life! Everything is so expensive, I may have a very poor home to start. Andy has a mini heart attack every time I show him the cost of what I want. I want a huge headboard, it costs £400!!! Madness! But I want it, I want it so so much. It’s fun, exciting, and very stressful all at the same time. We get the keys on Friday, and I cannot begin to even describe how excited I am, in fact I feel a bit nauseated (as opposed to nauseous – learned that from The Big Bang!) every time I think about it, the good kind of nauseated though. This definitely has taken up all my time, so much that it is becoming difficult with all the uni work I have to do. Argh! The stress.

I have also developed a slight (oh so very slight) obsession with Candy Crush, the Bejewelled type Facebook game. This too is taking up too much of my time. Damn my addictive nature.

What else have I been up to? More recently I tried to make Tofu desert following Rose’s very well written recipe (http://simplyafoodblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/the-soybean-saga-part-2-almost-all-we-need-to-know-about-tofu-and-its-relatives-a-homemade-silken-tofu-tau-fu-fa-sweet-soy-curstard-dessert-tofu-all-in-one-recipe/) but it did not go so well. Although it tasted delicious, it looked like vomit in a bowl. Since it took ages to do, I am yet to attempt it again. My cheesecake attempts however, have been a huge success and they have gone down very well.

Baked blue berry cheesecake for early Tuesday morning restorative tutorials

Baked blue berry cheesecake for early Tuesday morning restorative tutorials

I have been baking a lot recently, feeding Andy, who by the way is getting pudgy 😉 Its something I am really starting to enjoy, and hopefully there will be more to come.

BDS4 has been going very well, I’ve extracted a load more teeth, with oral surgery proving to be my favourite session this year. Don’t get me wrong, its not because I’m sadistic or anything, I enjoy it because it is very satisfying to remove a tooth that has been causing a patient so much pain and discomfort. I also started paediatric dentistry this year, I thought I would be horrific at it because I’m not so great with children, but so far, I’m really enjoying it. I like interacting with young children, some of them say the funniest things. I also love telling them about the tooth fairy!


I have so much more to blog about, which I will, but its getting late and I have a dreaded tutorial to do work for tomorrow so I must get started on that (boo!).


Sheila x

Applying for dental school

So you want to be a dentist?

Every year, around September time, I often receive emails or messages asking about the dental application process, and I usually direct people towards one of my earliest blogposts- “The journey so far”.
After going back to this post, I have realised it’s not actually that helpful! So….delving through all the hard research that I did during the time I applied for dentistry, I have decided to write a post based on my experience of the whole application process (if I can remember that far back!), offering some advice and help to those embarking on this process. I will also be doing a separate post on the interview process too at a later date.

I am currently on the graduate entry BDS course at King’s College London, so most of this advice will be from a graduate point of view, but may still be useful for those who are not graduates.

If you have already submitted your application through UCAS and have secured an interview you may want to skip this post and go straight to my blog on “Surviving Interviews”.

Why did I choose dentistry?

Unfortunately I’m not one of those who has always known I have wanted to study dentistry since “the day I could walk” and nor did I want to do dentistry because of some horrific ordeal in my life that resulted in a new born passion. Boring, I know. I chose to study dentistry after thorough research (both regarding the profession and the demands of the BDS course), work experience and a comprehensive understanding of what the profession entails. This took careful consideration, weighing up the pros and cons, establishing my motivations and expectations and thoroughly considering whether or not I could hack a further 4 years of education. It was only then, when I was certain of all these things, that I knew dentistry was right for me.

I have always been a very “hands-on” type of person with a very strong interest in science in general, but not really any specific passion in one single profession except that I knew I wanted to help people and make their lives better. Armed with this, I made my way through the world, first by choosing science based A-levels, and then by doing a degree in Biomedical science because I initially wanted to go into cancer research, as there were people in my life at the time affected by cancer, and this spurred my heart to head in this direction. After completing my final year project for my BSc, I knew that research was not for me and so I started to explore my options by doing work experience in numerous doctor and dental practices, combined with research into each profession and now here I am. And so, even though this is not an exciting reason, and by far an inspirational one, it’s the truth, and I wake up every day knowing that I am very lucky to be doing something that, not only I have chosen to do, but also something I love, and that is better than any magnificent story. Here is my experience of how I am here today:

Universities & entry requirements

There is no need for me to go into this; the topic is fantastically summarized by TSR.

For a summary of the dental schools and contact details go to: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Dental_School_Contact_Details

For a list of entry requirements for undergraduate dentistry go to: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Dentistry_Entry_Requirements

For graduate entry go to: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Graduate_Entry_Requirements_for_Dentistry

Work Experience

Try and apply for this early on, and do it because you are genuinely interested in finding out what dentists do, not just because you need to get your “two weeks done” so a university will consider you for interview!

The earlier on you apply for this, the more time you will have and the more experience you will get. The later you leave it, the less likely you are to get offered a space, as other students will have got in there first.

Apply to dental hospitals belonging to dental schools as they are generally more understanding that students need work experience, and are more likely to offer you it, especially as they are bigger institutions and therefore can take on more students than say, a small practice. Also dental hospitals within schools have many different departments, which will give you an idea of the many different things you will be doing as a dental student, and therefore an idea of what to expect.

Maximise your chances by applying to as many places as possible, travelling if you need to:

  1. Dental schools/ hospitals
  2. Private practices
  3. NHS practices

Write letters, make telephone calls, drop in to the practice. I did all of these and manage to secure myself a good few weeks of work experience. Once you are in, NETWORK! Ask for recommendations of where else you could go, get to know the dentist, hygienist, dental therapist, dental nurses and even the reception staff as these people can REALLY help you get further work experience. You will be surprised as to how much name dropping will get your letters/emails noticed at other practices where some of these staff may have worked in the past! Also the staff may tell you who to contact so you are able to contact them directly, making your emails/phone calls/letters more personal.

When contacting practices/dental hospitals for work experience, make sure you address it correctly, tell them who you are, why you are writing to them, and why doing the work experience will be beneficial to you even if they are only able to offer you a couple hours at the very most. They need to know that you are serious about what you want to do, and serious about the work experience, so they are not wasting their time. It might seem obvious, but don’t write pages and pages! At the same time, don’t just write a single line saying you want work experience!

Finally, don’t see this work experience as a chore, the more hours you put in, the more you will get out of it, and hopefully by the end of it all you will have a pretty clear idea about whether it’s the right thing for you! Plus you will have plenty to talk about when it comes to the dreaded interview stage. The work experience part, especially if you have managed to get plenty, will speak volumes about your passion and dedication, when it comes to writing your personal statement.

For a summary of what individual universities expect for work experience go to: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Dentistry_Work_Experience

The entrance exams

UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test)

This is a mental aptitude and ability test, not designed to test knowledge, consisting of a multiple choice, onscreen exam.

Universities that require you to sit this exam:

  • Cardiff University
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Glasgow,
  • King’s College London
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Newcastle
  • Barts and The London
  • University of Sheffield

I am not going to bother going into the ins and out of this test as extensive details are available on: http://www.ukcat.ac.uk/.

It is not possible to revise for this because it does not test knowledge, however you can PREPARE for it. I did not pay for coaching and tutors. I found “600 UKCAT Questions” along with the practice test provided by UKCAT, to be particularly useful, and it was the only book I purchased. There are plenty of other books out there, but I only purchased this one so I could be familiar with the format, question styles, and multiple-choice format.

My advice is not to stress over the test, stay calm, practice as much as you can and take the test early to get it out the way so you can focus on the rest of your application! Booking the test early also means you have the opportunity to reschedule, should you need to.

Remember to pace yourself, and move on if you are struggling to answer a question. Answer all questions as there is no negative marking.

GAMSAT (Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test)

As far as I know, GAMSAT is required by Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry for health care professionals without a degree level qualification.

For more information visit: http://www.pcmd.ac.uk/dentistry.php?tab=resource and http://gamsat.acer.edu.au/gamsat-uk/.

Extracurricular activities

Dental schools don’t tend to want those who just have their heads in the books all the time. They want people who contribute to society, their school, their friends and family. An A* student who participates in extracurricular activities is more desirable than an A* student who does nothing else but study! Students need an outlet to healthily relieve stress. They should have other interests, because dentists should be able to relate to others, they should be able to communicate with others, and they need to be able to work as part of a team.

Participating in team sports demonstrates your ability to communicate and to work as part of a team. It requires commitment; it shows a competitive side and provides an outlet to relive stress.

Doing volunteer work (volunteering in a hospice/ charity shop etc) demonstrates compassion, willingness to give back to society, a caring side and a natural desire to help others.

Other examples of extracurricular activities include (but not limited to) school projects/duties, school clubs/societies, paid work, family related responsibilities, care work etc.

Extracurricular activities also demonstrate good time management.

The personal statement

For me this was the part I dreaded the most, selling oneself on paper. Where to start? How to finish? What to include? What NOT to include? Is it original?…Seriously, for me this was worse than preparing for the interviews!

First and foremost do NOT plagiarise someone else’s work! UCAS will know! The personal statement is supposed to be as the name suggests, PERSONAL to you. The whole point of it is to show case YOUR skills, abilities, qualities, motivations and passion.

It is not a creative handwriting course you are applying to, so don’t write an art piece (this is my personal opinion, as I am yet to meet someone who has written a poem/rap/story/song as a personal statement for dentistry)!

I believe that writing about your work experience, hobbies, extracurricular etc, by far, better demonstrates your qualities compared to just stating “I am hard-working, caring…” etc.

Mentioning your academic abilities is also a waste of words as your grades will clearly demonstrate this; the only exception is when you need to explain mitigating circumstances as to why you have not performed as expected. In which case you might want to mention how you turned this negative into a positive, and what you have learnt from this.

Things you may want to consider including:

  1. Why you want to study dentistry/ how you came to decide on dentistry. It is very easy to write cliché statements here, so try to avoid it as much as possible!
  2. What aspect of dentistry appeals to you.
  3. What exposure you have had in the profession/ work experience and what you most enjoyed. Why?
  4. What your previous degree was in, and why this will potentially help you on a BDS course. I did not feel it was necessary to link my first degree to dentistry – mainly because there was no direct link. I did not study biomedical science because I could not get into dentistry, and if you are in this situation, it is advisable NOT to state this. Highlight the positives of what doing a first degree will mean when you do your second degree. How has it prepared you? What transferable skills did you develop?
  5. If you have taken time out/ a gap year, what did you spend it doing? How will it help you in your BDS?
  6. What extracurricular activities do your participate in? If you volunteer, why? If you work, why? How have these roles strengthened your personality? How will they help in your BDS?
  7. What are your hobbies? How do you deal with stress?
  8. What makes you suitable for the course and why YOU should be picked.

Things you may want to omit…however true they are:

  1. The only reason you are doing your current course is because you were not accepted on to a dental course
  2. Academic capabilities – these will be obvious in your grades/predicted grades
  3. You wish to study dentistry for the money
  4. Lies – if found out, you risk your application being rejected!
  5. Other courses you are applying for just in case you do not get accepted

The Reference

The reference is obviously very important, and the person you choose as your referee should know you well, and should know about your passion for dentistry. It therefore, does not necessarily have to be your “tutor”. You could ask a lecturer who teaches you regularly instead. I chose my referee based on this fact, and after asking him to be my referee, I arranged an appointment to meet with him where I explained why I wanted to do dentistry, why I was passionate about it, my driving force, and the measures I had taken to arrive at the decision. I needed him to see how much I wanted to be picked, and how serious I was about it. I left him with a copy of my personal statement when I left. That was all I could do, the rest was up to him.

The reference is important because it is a respectable person vouching for the “claims” in your personal statement. It is particularly important if your grades are not as high as some of the natural geniuses there are out there too, as this could potentially set you aside from them. I honestly believe that if you get this right, you stand a good chance of being offered an interview.

Final notes

That is literally as much as I can remember.

I did not take the traditional route to study dentistry, which goes to show that you do not have to get there first time round. I am doing something I enjoy, perhaps a lot later than many undergraduates, but nonetheless I am still doing it, which is what is most important. I firmly believe that as long as you know where you want to end up, you will find a way to get there. Admittedly, it is a very daunting process, with plenty of preparation and consideration needed. It is important that you are clear on what you are applying for, and even more important that it is what you WANT to do, as 4/5 years is a massive commitment for something that you are unsure about. I am totally in it for the long haul. It is competitive, stressful, hard-work, requires 100% dedication, and tiring, but honestly it is SO SO SOOO worth it! When you cut your first cavity, restore your first tooth, see a patient’s oral hygiene improve or extract your first tooth (to name but a few firsts!!) it is literally THE most satisfying, privileged and rewarding feeling ever, I cannot even begin to describe it! But I will say “I told you so” when you get there!

Good luck in your application and hopefully see you on the other side some day!

Disclaimer: The post is by no means a fool proof way of getting into dentistry, the advice written is based on the experience I had and the research that I have done myself. Individual students should always contact the universities that they wish to apply to for further and up-to-date information regarding the requirements needed.

To find out more about Sheila