Student Spotlight

Embracing art as a dental student

Dentistry is an art form. The mouth is the canvas, the dental tools are the paintbrush, and the materials are your paint. Put all these together, and you can create some beautiful dental work.

The skills needed in dentistry involve more than using your hands. In order to create a beautiful symphony — a beautiful smile — you need a blend of art and science. Luckily, we were taught in anatomy that our brains are split into two hemispheres: the right side predominantly creative or artistic, while the left has to do with logic, or areas such as math and science. Both sides communicate and work together to create a work of art. Whether cutting a crown prep, matching shades for a composite filling or staining a crown to match — all these aspects of dentistry involve art. 

Perhaps we can look at it in this way: ENgineer + arTIST = Dentist

As a dental student in my fourth year, I have found a way to integrate my artistic side with my dental career. Hue, value and chroma are three words that were engrained into our brains during our first Fixed class. I was also taught in many art classes that these three concepts are key to creating wonderful art. These terms are in my mind as I create art through painting after leaving clinic.  Not only have my artistic skills been enhanced, but I bring what I learn through painting portraits to clinic. I view shadows and light in a more in-depth way. I see colors not just as red, yellow and blue, but as garnet, chartreuse and magenta. 

On top of expanding my knowledge, creating art doubles as a way to relieve stress. After a full week of seeing patients, studying for boards and tending to chores, I find that taking time to paint benefits my mental health. One study published in the Journal Art Therapy measured participants’ cortisol levels after 45 minutes of doing an art task. Their results concluded that 75% of the people in the study had lowered their cortisol levels after the art task. We all know that high cortisol levels lead to increased stress. Also, according to an article published from Harvard Medical School, “Recent research suggests that to stave off cognitive decline, doing creative activities may be more effective than merely appreciating creative works.” 

Dental school is a stressful period in our lives. Self-love and self-care are key to living a long happy, healthy life, and I hope to inspire others to find something that helps relieve the day’s stresses. Make time for yourself. Draw a picture. Learn how to play an instrument. Pick up some paints and a canvas, and start creating! Explore a new artistic hobby because, as Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life.”

~Kaitlyn Schultz, Southern Illinois ’21

Kaitlyn Schultz

Kaitlyn graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with a major in chemistry. She got involved in art at a young age and began taking it more seriously during high school, where she learned skills that she built upon throughout college.

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