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Top tips for your final year at dental school

Blog Author Chris Ball

Blog Date 16/08/2016

​I'm starting this blog series in no man's land; not quite a foundation dentist yet, but certainly qualified. Finals were wrapped up for the end of May meaning us UCLan graduates had a long summer ahead.

I've filled mine with celebrations, holidays, celebrations, some part-time work and… more well deserved celebrations, after a lot of hard work! But despite a hectic schedule, I've had some time to think about my time at dental school.

Rewind 10 months and I'd just started my final year at UCLan. There were a number of things on my priority list; assembling case presentations, revision schedules, but ultimately my number one was being prepared for the dental foundation training interview in November.

Fortunately, at UCLan, students are surrounded by many tutors with invaluable experience in primary care dentistry, who've encountered many of the scenarios you might face during the interview. Mr Paul Knott, our DFT guru, masterminded the DFT preparation for all final years which included much needed mock interviews with actors and examiners. The BDA runs a final year lecture which comes to every dental school.

We were encouraged to grasp the purpose of the GDC standards, explore the importance of ethics and professionalism. I found the BDJ a good starting point; reading articles from BDJ In Practice as well as BDJ Student magazines, really helped expand my knowledge on these issues.

I also feel it's important to have an appreciation of the wider landscape, and I read the weekend papers to keep me up to date on the political and social pictures. Surprisingly, I found social media platforms, particularly Instagram and LinkedIn, good sources of information, not just for interview preparation, but for the final year as a whole. Following trail-blazing peers, such as Reena Wadia on LinkedIn and Dr Thomas on Instagram has helped to give me a much needed insight into real life dentistry and the issues I'll be facing as my career develops.

No doubt, your interview day will be stressful. It's essential to remember the interviewers are looking for safe-beginners and an appreciation for duty of care. It is an opportunity for you to highlight your approach to clinical care and the patient management you already use on clinics so have confidence in your ability.

We are told final year is about consolidation; integrating knowledge with skill, completing treatment and making plans for post-dental school. In reality, it's a jugglers' game; keeping afloat with journal clubs, clinics, interview preparation and refining revision notes. Ultimately, I found it to be about good time management and a little self-sacrifice (namely, a lack of a social life!).

Final year is a whirlwind. I tried to make the most of my clinical time, when patients cancelled appointments, I would pull the phantom head out to practice those crown and bridge preparations.

Also, glean as much knowledge from your clinical tutors whilst you can, you'll be paying for CPD courses before you know it, and try to learn as much from mistakes and failings; discuss with both tutors and peers what went wrong and how you could have gone about something differently, we all make mistakes; accept it and correct it.

Whilst it is the business end of your undergraduate studies, it's really important you try to enjoy yourself. Try to switch off in the time around your clinics and revision schedule, taking those well-deserved breaks. Our recently retired Head of School made it his mantra to 'Work Hard but Play Hard' and I've found this to be very true.

I hope this post gives you an honest account of final year at dental school. Over the series, I'll be posting about foundation training, networking, social media and preparing for life after foundation dentistry, watch this space!

Chris Ball, Foundation Dentist

Support during your final year at dental school

Keep an eye out for the BDA's final year lecture at your dental school, and also the Getting your first job guide, plus a one-day DFT intensive workshop in London.

We have a range of resources and advice for students and young dentists starting out in their careers, visit our website for more information.

BDA members can download our Into Practice app, which has information and tips for newly-qualified dentists on getting ahead in your career.