Beginning Hand Skills

Since fall semester has started we’ve finally gotten to start waxing tooth #8 and drilling Form 1’s (3x5x2mm in an ivorine block) using a handpiece. I love this class so much and I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to finally do this. First of all, it’s like an art class where we can put in our headphones and get in the zone. I’ve always been a relatively artsy fartsy person so I had somewhat honed my fine motor skills through things like jewelry design…bug pinning, where I had to carefully spread the delicate moth and butterfly wings on a spreading board and, once dried, would stick the pin at exactly 2/3 of the way up the thorax of the insect.

I figured this would be very different so I’ve been curious to know if these dental hand skills would be something I’d be “good” at. Fortunately, I think I am. I was able to pick up the teeth waxing and form 1s a lot faster than I expected to. And the cool thing is, it’s actually really fun and relaxing.

First, we were introduced to our little manikin heads. (Apparently, for anatomically-correct model of the human body it’s spelled “manikin” rather than the fashion “mannequin”). Our first patients. Before we formally learned how to attach the rubber face on our mannikin I had asked the D2 who happened to be sitting in the row in front of me. Turns out it was PJ! The D2 who writes Labcoat & Pearls, the blog I’ve followed before I even started dental school. She was super nice and showed me her way of attaching the rubber face on the manikin (which actually turned out to be quite a bit easier way than the way they showed us later in class).

We also learned how to position our bodies in an ergonomically healthy position since dentists are known for having terrible back problems later in life. The professor even told us that by D2 year students were already starting to have back problems. Besides the possibility of back problems, another aspect that makes this my all-time favorite class is that our professors let us to have our headphones in (even during practicals!) which allows me to really relax and listen to my endless stream of podcasts.

For the tooth waxing procedure we had already set up our articulators last semester and used the model tooth as an example of what our final waxed tooth #8 should look like. We walked through the procedure through various videos and eventually were able to make something that looked like a tooth.

14231857_10155069805117788_3048761183082623456_oWe made yellow wax cones as markers to identify the dimensions of our wax tooth to maintain contact between adjacent teeth.14361311_10155069805087788_6353112718705019756_o14257473_10155069805372788_8878001766919740656_oThe main problem I had was building up the facial surface and creating an accurate height of contour. I figured out a trick to make the tooth smoother before using the pantyhose. I heated up the beaver tail and quickly ran it over the facial surface of the tooth. This melted the wax and allowed it to smoothen out as it eventually solidified. Rubbing the surface of the tooth with pantyhose was another neat trick upperclassmen had mentioned to really make the wax shine. It was a game changer.14305306_10155069804792788_1935603147924521624_oThe next week we were introduced to our high speed hand drills to start working on our Form 1’s.

As much as people find the Form 1’s frustrating, I can visibly see my progress through each attempt. My first one is actually pretty embarrassing but only because I had, for some reason, assumed the highest tic mark on the perio probe was the 5mm mark. But I definitely overshot a couple of times…before figuring out how to use a fulcrum finger and to fine-tune my movements.


One of the post-grad students also gave me tips on how to hold the drill and use a fulcrum finger to steady the hands.


Drilling these Form 1’s is like walking on a tightrope. You have to be so tediously careful because you can’t undo it if you overshoot the dimensions. One wrong move and you’ll have to start over. I had a tendency to accidentally make the block a little larger than the dimensions given so my D3 friend, Judy (whom I’d met in undergrad) gave me some good tips including starting out carving a 2x4x2mm block and eventually smoothing out the edges which creates a 3x5x2mm block.

And just like how everyone mentioned in their personal statement, this is really the start of where dentistry is the perfect blend of science and art.


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