Written by: Ghazel Ghasemi,
Pre-dental Student at York University, Toronto. 

Hello everyone! My name is Ghazel and I am from Toronto, Canada. Below are some tips for any student who is interested in pursuing dentistry and getting into dental school. 

Research the field 

My first tip is to research the field. Learn all about what are the specialists, how to pick the right courses in your undergrad that are needed for dental school applications, etc. It is important to research everything about this field and to see if it is a career you see yourself doing. 

Find shadowing opportunities!  

My next tip relates to the previous one and that is to find shadowing opportunities. According to American Dental Association’s (ADA)’s Go Dental Guide, shadowing is “going to a dentist’s or dental specialist’s office to observe procedures, learn dental terminology and techniques, observe different practice environments, and ask the dental professional questions about his or her journey to practicing dentistry. Shadowing a dentist, or another health care professional in a hospital, helps you become acquainted with many aspects of dentistry, and how it plays a role in health care overall.”   

You can find dentistry career guidance from ADA’s website.  
To see if dentistry was the right fit for me, I decided to join a co-op program when I was in high school in which I was placed in a dental office to see what the day-to-day life was like. When I say I want to do something, I do all my research on it and analyze the pros and cons. This experience with Dr. Baker and Dr. Nashid was just the first step in my ever-growing journey to dentistry. Afterward, I was able to start assisting under the supervision of Dr. Sheibani. Since then, my determination to become a dentist has strengthened. It was so rewarding to work with patients and see exactly how the dentist diagnosed each one. I would say that although shadowing isn’t mandatory, it is recommended. Some dental schools may require shadowing and thus, make sure to verify all requirements.  

Here are some tips when shadowing dentists: 

⏰   Show up on time: This shows professionalism and shows the doctor that you are ready to be there to learn.  

📝   Bring a notebook: Take note of certain procedures seen and topics discussed throughout the time you are there. This will help you retain information and show the doctor that you want to learn what they teach you.

💭   Ask critical thinking-based questions: Try to ask questions that you can’t just find by a simple search. Pay attention and ask questions that have more depth behind them. Try to avoid basic questions. I feel like you will learn more from questions that require more critical thinking.

🫂   Be kind to everyone in the office and introduce yourself to them: Don’t just be nice to the doctor, after all the office wouldn’t be running without the entire staff. They are just as valuable.

🧑‍⚕️   Ask the doctor what attire they prefer: Some doctors want you to dress business casual and others want you to wear scrubs. Either way, it is good to establish this before you show up to shadow.

🙏   Say thank you: Send a follow-up email or even send a thank you card to show your gratitude.

Pre-dental clubs 

My third tip is to join a pre-dental club. When I enrolled at York University in Toronto in 2015, there was not a resource for pre-dental students to receive knowledge on the dental field. This was very disheartening because for a school with thousands of students, there was an underserved pre-dental population.

As a result, I took it upon myself to create the Pre-Dental Association. The club initially started with thirty members and grew to over five hundred members. Being part of a pre-dental club allows you to network with likeminded students and grow together in your dental journeys. I have met so many friends through my pre-dental club. These students understand the stress and struggles that go with applying to dental schools, so it’s nice to have a support system. Also, by joining a pre-dental club, you can learn so much about the process of becoming a dentist.  

For my club, we offered many events like how to study for the Dental Aptitude Test, how to apply to dental schools, interview preparations, Dental professional speakers, motivational talks, outreach programs, shadowing opportunities and more! Believe me when I say it’s so beneficial to join a pre-dental community and if you don’t have one, MAKE ONE! You gain so many leadership skills.  

Role models 

My last tip is to find mentors in the field. A role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying ‘Yes, someone like me can do this’.

For myself, Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta is a true role model for me and many other students pursuing dentistry. She has been such an amazing supporter in my journey. Dr. Sanj Mohanta is such a trailblazer and leader in dentistry which I aspire to be like. She has such a big heart for helping her community, advocating, educating and supporting pre-dental students. You should find mentors in the field that you can look up to.  

I hope you find these tips helpful in your dental journey. Feel free to message me on Instagram @dentistryanddogs and @predentalassociation. A big thank you to Immersify Education for allowing me to be part of this amazing community!