Name: Jenny Jeon
School: New York University College of Dentistry
Why did you choose dental school?
I chose dental school mostly because of my parents’ recommendation. I was fortunate to have parents who were in the medical and dental fields, which happened to be of my future career interests, and they advised me to go into dentistry rather than medicine. I now see why, primarily because of the quality of life that dentists versus medical doctors lead during their training years and working years.
What do you like most about dental school and the least?
I think what I like most about dental school and what I like least about dental school are the same things. It’s that it pushes you like you’ve never been before. It challenges you by throwing so much material at you, that you learn what you would have learned in a semester in college in a week in dental school. You feel as if you’re memorizing bits and pieces of information as if you’re stacking jenga pieces higher and higher without a solid foundation, but it’s remarkable how the brain processes everything you’ve learned and makes it into the foundation you need to know for dentistry. Even though the struggles of learning so much material over the course of four years was brutal, I ultimately am so thankful for that experience, because it showed me what I was capable of and led me to crazy epiphanies like memory palace (a memorizing technique) that I was absolutely mind-blown about.
What advice do you wish someone would have shared with you before enrolling into dental school?
I wish they told me there is a lot of medical school subjects like the entire human anatomy, neuroscience, embryology, psychology, biochemistry, etcetera. I came in thinking it was going to be just about teeth, but I was dead wrong.
Any tips or advice for new students working on the clinic floor?
Pick a third year student that is doing really well in clinic and give them as much help as you can. Starting clinic at the end of your second year and shadowing fourth years may be a bit too overwhelming, and often once they leave, they won’t be able to give their patients to you. However, if you help the third years, they have enough experience to know how the clinic runs, and once they start overflowing with cases, they’ll be able to easily transition their patients to you, since you probably were there to assist for the patients they saw.
How did you manage your stress and workload during dental school?
Church and my friend groups in school were big sources of emotional support for me during dental school. I would often find myself in tears at church because of so much stress from the load of coursework, and being able to seek hope was a tremendous help to me. I also had a very tight-knit group of friends who studied together, and spending the wee hours of the night in the school cafeteria studying for the exams were so helpful and supportive. There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” So isolating yourself because of competitive inclinations or other motives is self-sabotage in the long run in dental school, because you’ll burn out from the stresses of all that you have to do.
Name one of your favorite clinical rotations and why?
I loved the oral surgery hospital rotation and the pediatric rotation. I was interested in oral surgery and pediatric dentistry (as well as orthodontics, which I am in now), and I think these rotations were enjoyable because I had the interest in those fields. During the oral surgery hospital rotation, I got to see, smell, and experience what it was like to treat a patient with osteonecrosis, as well as scrub into the operating room for bilateral sagittal split osteotomies, rhinoplasty and septoplasty for a deviated septum, and it was fascinating seeing the general anesthesia as well as the operations in action. I concluded from that rotation that even though I loved what they did, I wouldn’t want to pursue it from the quality of life of the six years of training and the liabilities that follow when practicing; but nonetheless, the rotation was a fascinating one.
The pediatric rotation was also amazing because it let loose a child in me. It was all of a sudden socially acceptable to act like a child with the pediatric patients, and it was so fun modulating my voice into weird high and low pitch voices so that I can bring dental instruments to life (i.e. Mr. Whiny for the high speed, Mr. Thirsty for the suction, etc.). But once again, this rotation showed me that although I love working with children, the uncooperative ones (who are often the ones referred to pediatric dentsits) took a toll on my energy levels, and by process of elimination, I decided orthodontics was the best route for me.
What are some helpful materials/resources you used to study and prepare for your board and licensing exams?
Your best resources are your peer mentors of the class above you. Talk to the brightest one that you are close to, and they will be able to give you guidance on how to prepare.
Discuss one challenge you faced during your dental school and how did you overcome it?
I broke my left wrist during spring break of my first year in dental school. I was snowboarding, and I fell with my entire body weight on my left hand on a very icy slope, and I was stupidly not wearing any wrist guards. Preclinical practicals were on full speed during that semester, and I remember calling my mom on the phone after a very unsuccessful practice session on drilling a #30 MOD. My right hand hurt because it was overworked, and my overly strong grip on the high speed had led to less control of the drill bit to create smooth lines and walls for the MOD preparation. I was in tears thinking, “What if I have to repeat this year?” but my mom calmed me down with her understanding words and empathy. Then she, who is also a dentist, gave me advice on how to relax my right hand more by using not only a finger rest but also a wrist rest (resting your wrist on the side of the manikin’s face to stabilize the right forearm), which eased a lot of the excessive grip strength in my right hand. Amazingly, it worked, and my friends egged me on with their words of encouragement and admiration of my tenacity. I couldn’t have done it without them, and here is the cherry on top of the story: Dr. Bucklan, our preclinical director, helped me put on the rubber dam during the practical and two days after the practical, I found that I got a 100% on the practical. That was one of the greatest moments of my dental school life.
What do you use for your everyday oral hygiene routine?
Toothbrush: Korean for soft toothbrush (PBT bristles)
Toothpaste: Korean bamboo salt toothpaste
Floss: Free waxed floss from NYU
Mouth Rinse: ACT Fluoride Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Others: Colgate Wave “soft” toothbrush (but actually not soft) toothbrush (for tougher plaque)
What makes you smile?
I smile when I see the rare goodness and purity in the world. Innocuous sarcasm also makes me smile because of the positivity in the face of negative situations.
Photos in this post are credited to Jenny J.
Thank you, Jenny, for contributing to smilesofpeople.com!
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