“What will you do with a music degree if you’re going to dental school?”
“Do dentistry and music even tie together?”
These were two of the many questions I would hear every time I told someone I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in music. I studied music because it is one of my passions. However, as I progressed further into the course of study, I realized that music and dentistry may not be so different after all.
I am a flautist and pianist. Perhaps the biggest advantage to studying music was the extra time I took in undergrad to cultivate my hand skills for my future dental career. Every time I practiced or played a concert, I further developed my hand-eye coordination and finger nimbleness. As a second-year dental student now, I have found that the nights I spent practicing the flute and piano has benefited me. All those wax-ups and crown preps in lab were made just a little bit easier because of the countless hours I spent in the music building, practicing scales and preparing for every flute lesson.
Along with hand-skill development, my music degree also taught me the power of performance pressure. Dentists face performance pressure in any procedure almost daily. Just as dentists only have one chance to cut a prep into a tooth, musicians only have one chance during a concert to play the right melody. Performing under that pressure during concerts and lessons taught me to concentrate in each moment, to work through stage fright and, most importantly, to forgive myself if I made an honest mistake. These are emotions dentists must work through every single day because, let’s face it — we are bound to make a mistake at least once in our careers. It is worthwhile to learn how to take deep breaths to calm ourselves and to approach every procedure with a relaxed attitude. I learned that skill by performing music.
As a dentist, you work tirelessly each day to connect with patients and provide adequate treatment. The skills that we need to treat our patients well can be learned anywhere and through any experience. You don’t have to major in music to learn hand skills or to learn how to cope with performance pressure. Studying music simply allowed me to learn those skills at my own pace, and I am grateful to have been given that opportunity.
~Shilpa Kudva, Texas A&M ’21, Chapter Legislative Liaison