As a fourth-year dental student who is halfway through my last year, I think back to the beginning of dental school — those days of uncertainty, the dental lingo that did not yet have any meaning and a work ethic I strived to grow into. By your D4 year, you will have gained a newfound confidence. Instead of wondering what you are doing, you determine what you don’t know and how to find the answers. You will have built a patient base and discovered areas of dentistry that you like the most. The following outlines things you can look forward to as you transition into your fourth year.
Established patient base and treatment plans
By the time you enter your fourth year, you will have an established patient base with patients you know and feel comfortable around. The majority of their treatment plans are already determined, leaving clinic time to perform actual dentistry. You can also be selective with your cases. Do you want to complete a crown lengthening case before graduation? If there is a procedure on your radar, you can connect with D3 and D4 classmates to find patients.
Many dental schools have opportunities for outreach that you can participate in prior to graduation. Outreach clinics are usually located in underserved dental communities with patients who are in great need of dental care and very appreciative of the care they receive. Esthetic dentistry can be exciting and fun, but restoring function for underserved patients can be just as rewarding. Use these opportunities to hone your restorative and prosthodontic skills.
Completion of requirements
As you enter your fourth year, you will start seizing every opportunity to learn new techniques. Instead of being hesitant to enter uncharted treatment plan territory, you will begin to say “yes.” This happens for a couple of reasons. First, you want to challenge yourself by encountering as many “firsts” as possible with the support of dental school faculty. You also have requirements that need to be completed before graduation. As a fourth-year, you become aware that requirements are not checked off until they are completed. Unfortunately, you will encounter patients who disappear or decide to discontinue treatment. For that reason, strive to take on additional patient cases and gain even more experience. When you have finished your requirements on time, you will be happy that you did.
It is important to determine which licensure exam you want to take while you’re in your D3 year. The available licensure exams all have different requirements and variable scheduling options. If you wait to make this decision, you may have to travel out of state to take a portion of your chosen exam. Consider where you want to practice, if you will be applying to a residency program, as well as your personal stance on patient-based examinations. Once you decide the examination you want to take, determine if it is offered at your school. ASDA’s website has information about the current options for licensure. Consider the factors important to you when making this decision.
D4 year can be magical and transformative. It is a year of self-discovery and confidence building. During a recent yoga class I attended, the teacher ended with a quote that resonated with me: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not in the branch, but in her own wings.”
Our D4 year is about trying new things, spreading your wings and trusting yourself in the process. It is the time to believe in yourself.
~ Kathryn Anderson, Minnesota ’18