Being a dental student during COVID-19

By Joshua Martin

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of everyone around the world, including those of us in medical and dental schools. I’m currently in my third year of dental school at King’s College London in the United Kingdom — where all colleges and universities have moved to remote learning except for students on clinical courses, to allow future critical workers like myself to continue studying.

I chose King’s College because it is the biggest dental school in the UK and is based in the heart of London. It is a large, historic dental school with access to cutting edge research facilities and dental technology. The technology has always been valuable, but it is even more so this year as the third year of dental school is all about practical study with patients. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I have not been able to treat patients this year, and most of my practical work has been on simulation models with plastic teeth. I have mainly been practising drilling and filling plastic teeth and will soon be able to use the simulation models to pull out fake wisdom teeth and practise suturing.

My manual dexterity has improved because I’ve been able to practise my technique on the models and not worry about nervous patients moving around. While this isn’t the same as working with people, it’s helpful to have this technology available so that we can continue our studies during these difficult times.

For clinical classes, we are able to attend in person with full personal protective equipment, including goggles, aprons, gloves and masks to practise on the models, but the rest of my courses and any theory work are done at home.

The biggest challenge for me has been staying motivated without the rhythm of going into class every day and working alongside other students. On the days I feel frustrated, I remind myself that soon I’ll be working directly with patients, which inspires me to keep studying.

I take COVID-19 precautions very seriously as I go back and forth to campus, especially as public transportation is the most convenient way for me to get to classes. Not only am I concerned about spreading the virus to my friends and family, but I also recognise the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the wider community. Luckily, within the dental school we have always been required to keep everything sterile, so this hasn’t been a major adjustment. By the time this school year ends I hope the clinical aspects of my studies will be back on track and in two years I will be returning to the Cayman Islands as a qualified dentist.

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of the Camana Bay Times.