My indirect route to dental school

students at dental schoolNikita Joshi discusses her indirect route into dental school and how, even at a young age, she knew dentistry was the career for her.

As a young girl, I was interested in dentistry. It amazed me how you can change someone’s life and enable them to smile confidently. Making such a positive impact on the patient.

I was so eager, that I got ample experience in multiple different places. This included the local hospital, a mixed practice, a private practice and community and orthodontic specialities. This reinforced my interest. I didn’t realise there was so much to dentistry!

During high school I managed to obtain good GCSEs. Next I focused on my A Levels to acquire the three As I needed for dental school. In addition, I tailored my Welsh baccalaureate project to the dental world by comparing DMFTs from Tanzania to my own little city.

I was predicted good grades for my A Levels and also managed to secure an undergraduate place at the dental school of my choice, subject to my results.

I ended up with three A Levels in chemistry, biology and design technology, and a Welsh baccalaureate qualification.

Unfortunately, I did not receive the grades needed. Tearfully, I had to ring up the university and hear that I did not have the place. I applied for a remark, taking almost a year. The education body warned that my marks could go down, but actually it turned out I had an A!

A moment out

By this time, I had already decided to take a year out, but to re-do chemistry at a different college. I felt that my school didn’t teach this well and I didn’t know what would happen with my other grades. I moved away from home and I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do in a different city.

When I achieved my As in chemistry, I was happy, but I felt consternation. Perhaps with better guidance and a quicker turnaround, what happened next and what happened before may have been different.

There was not enough advice on getting into dental school unlike medical school. At this point, although I re-applied for dental school, I felt disheartened about my chances of getting in.

On reflection, I think this lack of confidence and gloomy outlook may have contributed to not receiving a place. Thus, I decided to apply for biomedical science, in my hometown. I had thoroughly enjoyed learning chemistry and biology so I thought studying this would spark light in an alternative career path.

During my three years at university, I enjoyed student life and finding my feet. There were many aspects of the degree that I enjoyed, but also many that I just couldn’t find interest in. Out of everything, I loved learning about tissue engineering.

Despite this, I could not shake dentistry from my heart. I attained honours but instead of perusing biomedical science, I started part-time work in a dental lab, as a plaster technician. I loved looking at the models, doing wax-ups and soaking up anything the technicians would be kind enough to teach me.

Returning to dental school

This time, I was determined. I knew that dentistry was something I definitely wanted. Although working as a dental technician is great, I enjoy communicating with patients. Skilfully working in patient’s mouths’ and problem solving whilst the patient is awake was of great fascination to me.

During this time, I visited 12 dental schools and went to their open days. The graduate dental schools wooed me with their intense but short courses and treated one like they were a graduate student, instead of starting from scratch.

In my search, I fell in love with UCLan and what this dental school offered, including its small cohort teaching and early clinical exposure in hospital trusts based in areas of high socio-economic deprivation.

I had two interviews in two different dental schools, but ultimately received an offer of a place at the dental school that piqued my interest.

Now, I am nearing the end of my second degree and still have a great passion for dentistry.

If I were to offer any advice to students wanting to do dentistry, I would say don’t give up on your dream. As cheesy at this sounds, life always has a way of working out. Even if there are roadblocks.

As a more mature student at UCLan, I am thoroughly enjoying everything the course has to offer. Looking back, although there are things that I could have done differently, such as actively seeking guidance, or asking for direction from someone who could help, my route gave me a greater insight and knowledge, helping to build the person I am today.

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