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Learning a New Skill as a Dental Student

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Growing up, parents and mentors always chirped in my ear—the best time to learn something new is now. Looking back on it, I wish I had listened. In the trenches of dental school, it is so hard to find time outside of pre-clinic, academic and extra-curricular work. After 12 hour days spent away from home, the most logical use of my time is spent examining the back of my eyelids. But at the start of dental school, I also embarked on other passions in my life—I began learning the bass guitar. Many of my classmates and family have questioned why I would choose to pick an instrument up that requires a lot of time and effort to become proficient. As I learned growing up, there is no better time than now. While I chose the bass, picking up a new hobby of any sort during dental school can be advantageous for a number of reasons.

 

            The first two years of dental school leaves any student drowning in academic work, but one could make the argument that developing our hand skills is the most important aspect. Picking up any musical instrument, learning a new craft, or even learning how to cook—all of these activities improve dexterity. There is often this misconception that you can only improve by spending hours upon hours in the pre-clinic. Hand skills do not solely come from holding a drill for hours upon hours. Any hobby that challenges you to fortify hand strength and acuity will ultimately make you a better clinician.

            Learning something new demands attention, but I have found that keeping my brain active during my free time helps me with my dental school studies.. I think it is safe to say that if you could do better in school without having to study, you would jump at the opportunity. By keeping the mind active, there is a better propensity to absorb and retain information. Using spare time to embark on a new passion is a fantastic way to ensure that time is not wasted on mindless endeavors.   

            But learning something new, as most dental students come to find out, is no easy task. It is, however, an incredibly rewarding experience.  Playing bass for a year now, I have struggled and asked myself “why am I doing this?” many times. I have asked myself the same question regarding dental school. The small triumphs make it worth it. When I learn a new bass line, or figure out a new technique to properly seal my margins on a crown preparation, the feeling of triumph makes all the difficulties worth it. Regardless of what your passion is, becoming good at something requires time and effort. I found something I really love, and while it still is a struggle, I manage to find successes every day with my playing. It has motivated me in dental school as well. For every bad day, there is a good day, and I do my accomplishments rather then my failures. Whether we like it or not, dental school is a time to become an adult—“a real person.” Neglecting a passion now might mean never exploring it. Pursue something you love, and find time every day to become better. You’ll become better at it, and may even bolster your dentistry skills as well.