Just had my first ever patient in dental school! At this point, we can do prophies (aka a cleaning) or a simple restoration (drill and fill). A lot of my classmates had their first patient weeks ago and you can either schedule a patient or you can wait to have one scheduled for you which is what most people did. I kept checking on the provider schedule and last week found out that I had a patient the following Tuesday!! It was a “prophy” aka prophylaxis or cleaning of the teeth which involves removing any calculus build-up, removing plaque, and polishing.
Honestly, the dentistry part of it wasn’t the hard part. I was more anxious about knowing when to get instructor checks and making sure I was fluent enough with the program we used. Although we’ve entered a lot of simulation patients into the program through MiDentTRAIN, we were now having to enter our first, real patient into MiDentLIVE. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and the patient was relaxed and friendly. I was SO lucky to have my friend and housemate, Raechel, assist me during the whole thing! She hasn’t had her first patient yet but I’m pretty sure she knew the order of things better than I did.
Our patient had A LOT of calculus, this hard minerally stuff that accumulates on teeth when the plaque is not removed on a daily basis. As Professor M had said when she looked at the patient, this was much more than we probably have ever seen and it might take a while. She said it was one of those “in-between” cases which probably could have been given to an upperclassmen. She told me to do one quadrant on the mandible and have her check it. I started working with the explorer to detect where the calculus was. I then used the cavitron and eventually moved on to the hand instruments including the sickle scalar and curette. It was very satisfying to feel and hear the calculus popping off the teeth, sometimes leaving the gingiva still slightly displaced. It was difficult to tell whether I was just feeling the CEJ (cementoenamel junction) or if there was actually calculus on the teeth. One thing I noticed is that despite having only done this twice before on classmates with no calculus, using these instruments felt natural and comfortable. I felt that I had the dexterity and hand skills that I had written about in my personal statement to get in here in the first place. When Professor M came back to see how we were doing, she checked with the explorer the quadrant that I had cleaned. She told me I had done a fabulous job and was very impressed. I was so happy to hear this. She said I could go ahead with the rest of the cleaning. We continued on but unfortunately, we didn’t have time to finish the whole mouth by the time the appointment ended at 5PM. So we discussed with the patient and were able to schedule her in for this Thursday.
Being at the school, the appointments can be very long…the morning appointments are from 9AM-noon and the afternoon ones are from 2-5PM. It’s not so much the dentistry that takes a long time, but in the VICs clinics, a lot of the time involves waiting around the faculty to come to your cube to do a check since we are technically working under their license at this point. But of course, as someone brand new to clinic, I’d hope to become faster as I get more used to using these tools and figure out what works best.
Overall my first patient experience went really well. I will never forget this moment and I now know that I am definitely where I’m supposed to be!