Archive for the ‘ Dental School ’ Category

Dentists Are People, Too

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

As a dentist, I’m well aware of the stereotypes that are out there about us.  We are not popular people.  Dentists are mean, cold, sadistic, and chronically running behind schedule, right?  I get where some of that comes from.  I mean, we stick people with needles and do things that hurt.  And some dentists truly are just a–holes.

Example: a dramatization of a true story, told to one of my friends:

SCENE: dark smoky cigar bar with plush couches and cleavagey waitresses.  A group of old men dentists are kicking back after their grueling 3-day work week, drinking pricey bourbon.  The leader of the pack adjusts his cravat, which I think is like a tie for rich people, or is at least French for tie.  He takes a drag off his expensive cigar.  ”You know who’s not doing this right now?” he asks his companions.  ”Poor people.”  They all laugh.

(What the what?!)

But we’re not all like that!  Dentists are people too.  And you should treat us as such.  Just sayin’.

I mean, it gets pretty old when several people per day walk into your office and tell you “I hate the dentist.”  In what other profession is it okay to walk into the room, meet someone, shake their hand, and then tell them you hate them?

Or say you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks what you do for a living.  You say, “I’m a dentist.”  Basically it is completely socially acceptable for someone at the table to say “You are?  I hate you!”  And everyone else can totally laugh because it’s hilarious and they all hate you too.  It’s okay if you go home and cry yourself to sleep because no one likes you.  You deserve it.  Because you’re a dentist.

And talk about unrealistic expectations.  People will come in for an initial visit with me, and demand that I take this tooth out OMGRIGHTNOW because it’s been killing them for months and they can’t wait one more day.  Well listen here, your tooth didn’t get that way overnight so maybe you should have come in a little sooner and I can’t push back the rest of my schedule because then everyone in the waiting room will be grumping about dentists and their “sundial schedules” and you wouldn’t like it if I did that to you, now would you?  (Of course I’m a pushover and can’t stand to see people in pain, so I take the tooth out anyway.  Usually.)

Or they’ll come in with a list of things they want done, but don’t want to hear about what they actually need to have done.  Example:

Patient: I want my teeth whitened.

Me: You have ten thousand cavities.  Let’s take care of those first.

Patient: I want my teeth to be at least 47 shades whiter than they are right now.  Do you do Zoom whitening?

Me: Let’s focus on this giant abscess that is giving you a fever right now.

Patient: I want my teeth to be so white that they blind people permanently as they walk by me.  Like, unnaturally white.  Picket fence.  Chiclets.

Me: This infection is really bad.  You are most likely going to die.

Patient: You must not have heard me when I said I wanted whitening.

Me: You must not have heard me when I said your face is going to fall off.

Patient: Do you do Zoom whitening?

We want to help you, people.  Well, maybe the bourbon guys I told you about earlier don’t care too much about helping you.  But I do.  I promise.  So next time you go to the dentist, remember: we are people too.

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Start Here: My Story

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Mom and toddler

Hi!  I’m Julia, single mom to Caroline, age two, who I adore but did not plan for.  I got pregnant with her unexpectedly about halfway through dental school.  I was married at the time.  I continued with school until I went into preterm labor around 28 weeks, at which point I took a year off.  I went back to dental school in January 2010, when Caroline was 11 months old.  That summer, I filed for divorce from my husband, and our divorce was finalized this past February.  I finally graduated from dental school just last week.  My blog is about the challenges and joys of being a single mother and a dental student… and now that I’m done with school, a brand-new dentist.

I’ve been blogging for about three years and just moved all my old posts here to Parents (after much effort and HTML editing and breaking and fixing of tags, which probably would have been no big deal if I actually knew what a tag was, which I don’t). Since most of you reading this are probably new to my blog, I thought I’d put together a list of the posts that summarize my story the best. For the rest of you who already know me and followed me here… a little walk down memory lane. Or skip this post and wait for the new stuff!

Pick and choose and skip at will!

Shock: The day I found out I was pregnant.

The perils of unplanned pregnancy: The start of the troubles between me and Tyler.

Preterm WHAT??: Preterm labor begins at 28 weeks.

Suddenly a stay-at-home mom: Temporarily leaving school and going on bedrest.

It’s a girl!: Caroline is born at 36 weeks!

My birth story will have to wait: NICU trials and tribulations.

Birth story: This one’s self-explanatory.

A paper cut on the eye: Struggles with breastfeeding and pumping.

My “I-will-never’s”: It’s so much easier to parent before you actually become a parent.

See you in 10 minutes!”: I was so not a newborn kind of person.

Life is good: Just kidding, I was so totally a newborn kind of person. That day.

Whose leg do I have to hump to get a referral around here?: Issues with reflux.

Diagnosis: I am diagnosed with postpartum depression and PTSD.

Quitting time: I quit pumping in order to save my sanity.

Single mom’ing it: Tyler’s long and frequent absences take their toll.

I can do this: I return to dental school after my year at home.

Milestone anxiety: Caroline’s gross motor delay and resulting physical therapy.

May 16, 2010: Was once supposed to be my graduation day… but was still a good one.

Overly personal statement: Thoughts on having a baby during dental school.

I think I need to clarify: Explanation of my decision to file for divorce.

Empty: Tyler officially moves out.

Dear Caroline: A letter to my daughter about why I left her father.

“I don’t think she smiles like that”: Finding my happy place.

Off-limits: Struggles with dating after divorce.

Same team: My roller coaster plunges down again, and stories of divorce counseling.

Irretrievable breakdown: Our divorce is finalized.

“How do you do it all?”: Well, as it turns out, I really don’t.

That which angers you, controls you: I struggle with Tyler introducing his new girlfriend to Caroline.

Control freak: Continued struggles and introspection.

Alone: Thoughts on being single.

Prayer for my daughter: Reflections on what I want for my daughter, based on my own trainwreck of a personal life.

DMD… finally: My graduation from dental school… at last.

Whew. Long list. But it’s way shorter than reading all of my past posts. And if the past three years of my life have been anything, they’ve been eventful. Enjoy, and welcome to my blog!

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DMD… Finally.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I graduated from dental school yesterday. I’m a real doctor now. (Well, as much of a real doctor as a dentist can be. If someone has a heart attack, you should probably still call 911.)

I finally got to put on that cap and gown and cross the stage to have someone drape me in that lilac hood.

And I was so proud to stand next to my friends and my colleagues while I was granted that degree that I have wanted and worked towards for so long.

I had so much support, yesterday and always… my family who has loved and supported me through 22 long years of schooling, and finally got to watch me complete my doctorate…

One of my best friends Lauren and her husband Dan, who drove six hours to sit through a very long day of speeches, just to be there for me while I got my degree…

And of course Caroline. Who was my biggest motivation throughout the second half of this really difficult program. My mom handed her to me as I marched out of the convention center with the other graduates, and I carried her through the receiving line of faculty and VIPs, in her little lilac dress. She put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder and I whispered to her that mommy was a dentist now, that I did it for her. She said “Mommy dentist? Happy ‘wation, mommy.” (Which I assume meant “graduation”, and my mother taught her to say.)

She is only two, but I think she is proud of me. I know, for sure, that I am proud of myself.

Allow me a moment of what I hope is more pride than conceit… I have been through so much over the past year and there were so many times when I wanted to lie down and quit or give up. But I did not. I kept going and I didn’t just finish this program, I did well, and I stayed true to myself and the things that I always knew that I wanted. I hope I have set an example for my daughter when she is old enough to understand what I did for myself and for her.

And I hope that if you read this and you are a mother, or a single mother, like me, and you are in school or are thinking about going back… that you believe that it’s not what so many of my classmates say, that they don’t know how I could ever do it when I had someone else’s life to put before my own. She was not an obstacle to this achievement, but my biggest motivator and the single most important reason that I never lost sight of my goal.

I once was afraid that because I got pregnant halfway through school, my career was over. But it wasn’t that way. I can have both. Now I have my DMD, and I have my daughter. I am so happy, proud and content. There is nothing more that I need.

And to everyone who has ever asked me how I could do it with her, I guess I would say that the real question is, how could I ever have done it without her?

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So Close, I Can Taste It

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

My graduation from dental school is almost here. Countdown: T minus 4 days.

There were times when I never thought this day would come. I know people say stuff like that all the time, but really, there were a lot of bad times when I never thought this day would come.

So much has happened since I started dental school back in 2006. Engaged, married, pregnant, Caroline’s birth, my year off, separation, divorce. But my trainwreck of a personal life aside, I passed all those classes, took all those exams, cared for all those patients, finished all those requirements, passed all those boards.

I finished my requirements a few weeks ago, and last week I tied up all the loose ends, transferring my patients to third-year students and completing all my paperwork. I cleaned out my desk and brought home all the piles of dental stuff in my lockers. (It sat there in boxes on my living room floor for a few days… burs and fake teeth and impression material and spatulas and wax and drills and dental instruments… before I finally found the space to stash it all away.) I did my exit counseling for my loans (and man, was that ever depressing), squared up with the prosthetic lab and the bursar and the record room. Signed out, officially. No more responsibilities to the school. Ever.

It made me feel sadder than I expected it to. Don’t get me wrong, that entire program was immensely stressful, and I am glad to finally have gotten through it. But I guess I’m a nostalgic kind of person and I will miss all the people that I will never see again. Of course I’m starting there as a resident at the end of June, so I’ll be right back in the same space, but most of the people won’t be there. I was originally pretty upset about switching classes, but I really, really like my “new” class, and I will miss them.

Regardless, I’m still so excited for Sunday that I could jump up and down and scream. I’ve been wearing my cap, gown, and hood around my apartment for the past entire week. (Which is normal.)

My degree. Doctor Julia, DMD. It is so close, I can taste it. It is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me.

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Most Stressful Week Ever: Done and Done.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Can we talk about everything that went down last week for a sec?

Divorce on Tuesday. Court-ordered parenting class (with Tyler, my brand new ex-husband, mind you) on Wednesday. Clinical licensing exam on Friday. Most stressful week of my life. Ever.

Okay, we talked about it.

Just kidding, I’m totally not done. We’ve talked about the divorce, and we’ve talked about the parenting class (although truly, it sucks exponentially more when you have to sit right next to the guy you just divorced the day before). But I was so stressed out about this licensing exam that I didn’t even want to write about it here because I didn’t want to have to explain it if I failed.

So, I don’t know if I’ve ever explained how dental board exams work. Prepare yourself for something incredibly boring… or just skip this paragraph. There are national boards– we take part 1 of those after second year, and part 2 of those towards the end of fourth year (which takes two days). I’ve passed all of those. Then I had to take the regional licensing exam, the Northeast Regional Board (NERB), which has five parts– the root canal and crown/bridge sections (passed), the diagnostic skills exam (passed, I’m 99% sure), and the patient-based restorative and periodontal sections, which happened last Friday. The two most stressful parts. And thank-you-lord-I-passed. With, ahem, not to brag, but 100%, bitches.

It was a total and complete shitshow and by far the most stressful day of the week. Or of my life. Whichever was longer (it was a toss-up). There’s just all this paperwork and rules and specifications, and they bring in these outside board examiners, and you have to send your patients down the hall to a different clinic to have your work graded so that it’s all anonymous. My scaling and root planing patient went well, and so did my anterior filling patient, and then it came time for the posterior filling. They said my patient’s cavity was too small and denied it. This is when the shit hit the fan for me.

My patient was all “oh it’s totally fine because I didn’t really want to get this done and blah blah and yesterday took awhile and blah” and I was all GET OUT!!! The clock is running and I need to find a backup patient!! GET OUT!! I practically shoved her out the door and ran across the hall, all crazy-like, to try to find a backup. Found one and retook her x-rays– twice, because she moved… filled out all her paperwork… ignored all her complaining about having to sit for the exam. Dragged her back across the hall and sent her to the exam station to have her cavity approved. By this time, I was an hour behind schedule. I got her numb, got the rubber dam on, and she reached up and ripped it off. Three times. Finally I told my assistant to hold her hands down and forced the dam on and prepped the cavity in, no joke, ten minutes flat. Pushed her out of the room to the exam station. When she came back, I put the filling in and carved it and pulled the dam out and checked her bite in probably about eight minutes. Pushed her out to the exam station. She came back. PASSED. Somehow, with 100%.

I’ve got to say, getting through all of these tests makes me feel really good about myself. Not just because they are critical to actually practicing the career for which I’ve been training for so long, but because it reminds me that even though my personal life is kind of crazy, I am holding it together professionally. I mean really… let’s recap. We got engaged in 2006, married in 2007, I got pregnant in 2008, had Caroline in 2009, separated in 2010, and got divorced in 2011. We went through the entire life cycle of a marriage all during the time I was in dental school. Nice to meet you, my name is Julia von Trainwreck. But hey! I can drill the heck out of some teeth, that’s for damn sure.

Anyway, I’m glad that week is over. I went home on Friday, popped an Excedrin, poured a glass of wine, grabbed a trashy gossip mag, lit some candles, and sank into a hot bubble bath up to my chin. It’s my go-to relaxation routine. (Although admittedly slightly less so when you look up and there’s a cartoon frog face staring at you from the end of your safety faucet cover and, for some unknown reason, a can of green Play Doh sitting on the side of your tub.)

So, I got through the most stressful week of my life, and it all went as well as I could have hoped. And I’m proud of myself for that!

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