Posts in Studying
Happy Beginning of November and Thanksgiving!


In the spirit of Thanksgiving this month of November I thought it would be fitting to write about what I’m thankful for in dental school.  And what I’m most thankful for and what has struck me the most since I started school, is the community here at CU.


Starting school last year was a bit intimidating, trying to get in the flow of an unfamiliar school and routine.  I still remember the upperclassmen those first few weeks who went out of their way to introduce themselves, make us feel welcome, and show us the ropes.


As school has gone on, I continue to be really inspired by the generosity of people here.  Some students are amazing in the organizations that they’re involved in, how they give their time even with an extremely busy school schedule, to set up events for other students and the community.  Others are amazing in how they help in less noticed ways, like taking an extra moment to ask how you’re doing or being there to help if you need it. 


I can’t count the number of times over the past year that someone in school has seen me fumbling with a waxing or lab project, and have sat down with me, even if it’s 10pm on a Friday night, to give me some tips (or to just sit with me and laugh about how frustrating school can be).  There’s the many lunch and learns and mock practicals put on by upperclassmen and classmates in their spare time to help others with school.  There’s the faculty who spend their lunch break or after school tutoring, and those people in class who never forget to buy everyone Valentines or Halloween candy. There’s the numerous times someone has offered me their last fresh plastic tooth or #330 burr to practice with in Sim Lab.


There have been a lot of really cool experiences in dental school so far, from Anatomy Cadaver Lab to learning how to drill an ideal Class V preparation.  But really when I go home and people ask me how I like dental school, I end up telling them I love the community at school.  It’s what’s made dental school so fun, and what’s helped to keep my head above water during the challenging times.  I truly have been touched and inspired by the generosity here.


Mallory Mayeda is a second year dental student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.  She grew up in Golden, Colorado and went to college at the University of Denver.  She enjoys most things including musicals, Italian food, and traveling, but most of all being outside.


IMG_1885A few summers ago, my parents purchased a new German Shepherd puppy named Heidi. Heidi turned out to be a handful, as we soon learned that she was cleverer and more enthusiastic than any of our previous family dogs. For the next few months, we learned how to train a highly intelligent puppy to be obedient without being neurotic, to be playful without using her canine cuspids (ha, geddit?) to greet people, and to accept us into her “pack” (terminology used by the breeders themselves). As she grew, Heidi’s attention span doubled from about two seconds to four. In order to get Heidi to stay focused on learning how to sit, lay down, and heel, the breeders encouraged us to do two things: 1. Use little bits of hot dog as treats. 2. Keep the treats at our eye level and give Heidi the command, “EYES”, every time her attention slipped away to the endlessly more amusing pinecones in our backyard. The moments when Heidi successfully looked us in the eye before learning a new command, her success rate – and hot dog rewards – skyrocketed.

Having next to zero previous training working with patients, performing intraoral and extraoral exams, navigating Axium’s labyrinth, or staying afloat with lectures and lab work, second year of dental school is enough to make me feel uncannily like an untrained German Shepherd puppy. Dental school (the obedience training program) is meant to teach us dental pups how to be competent without overstepping our limitations, to be affable with patients without showing our frustrations, and eventually to be accepted into a highly respected and vital healthcare profession (our very own dental “pack”). As we graduate from first year to second year to third and fourth, our attention spans (hopefully) lengthen from about two hours to ten.

The analogy came full circle to me while listening to Dr. Sutton lecture: “Keep your eyes on me. That’s all you have to do. If you keep your eyes on mine, and your attention on what I’m doing, you will have no choice but to absorb at least eighty percent of what I’m saying. I just need your eyes.” At a time when everything we’re taught is new information and each tidbit could be beneficial for future success in clinic, I’ll gratefully take eighty percent of these dental school “hot dogs” – the skills that can lead to better patient care. While it’s easy to be distracted by fatigue, e-mails, Facebook (heaven forbid), and the Colorado Quickset blog during class, it’s just as easy to keep my eyes on the doctor standing at the front. The game gets easier still when I’m learning in the clinic setting -- undistracted by my shiny computer screen.

Whenever I find my focus slipping because I’ve been sitting in class for six straight hours, all I have to do is think of Heidi’s eyes looking up at me, eager to learn something new, and I am reminded how indispensable her attention is for her success. Attention is simple. If it works for a dog (who is undoubtedly smarter than I am), I trust that it can work for me too.

An Open Letter to the Class of 2020

11892151_10153563663697855_4795421247419572719_n Dear Class of 2020,

Welcome to the big leagues! Now that you have weathered the long days and (hopefully) fun nights of Orientation Week, the real journey into dental school begins. I would like to offer a few bits of advice as you all navigate the starting blocks of first year.

  1. Embrace your variety. The people in your class come from a diverse background. You’ll have those who come from dental dynasties and those who are blazing a brand new trail. You’ll have those who are undergoing a career change and those who are fresh off the college campus. You’ll have those who can speak three languages and those with a killer topspin serve. Everyone in your class has something unique to offer. It may not be obvious this month or this semester, but pay attention and everyone will surprise you at some point over the next few years. That’s the awesome thing about having a small class; you will make friends that you’ll have for the rest of your life.


  1. Stop planning for the future. I know this is a difficult one. It’s easy at the beginning to get so caught up in all of the things you have looming in the distant future…a seemingly scary amount of finals, seeing your first patients in clinic, graduation, life as a practicing dentist, etc. Stop it. Live in the present. That’s not to say you should ignore future events altogether, but don’t be consumed by them. Enjoy your time as first years. Even if at times things seem irrelevant or tedious. You will be much less stressed if you take each challenge of dental school one day at a time. (And for the love of all things dental, do not start asking about Boards until at least January…)


  1. Take a day off. Memorizing endless anatomy will get stressful, and exams will pile up. You will get tired of burning yourself with wax. You will get frustrated with some of the people around you. When that time hits, give yourself a mental break. Go fishing. Go to a movie. Go adopt a puppy (just kidding, don’t do this on a whim). Take the time to disconnect from school and stress. It’s that reset that is the key to success—not how many sleepless nights you can spend making flashcards.


  1. Trial-by-fire is an excellent way to learn. You’ll quickly realize that with dentistry, what is applicable in lecture is limited. You can learn only so much be listening and visualizing. At some point, you just have to do. This can be a frustrating transition, but it’s a transition that will force you to grow and become a better dental student. And this is not just limited to getting your hand skills in lab. Go assist some upperclassmen in clinic. You may not be in the driver seat, but you will learn some lessons that the classroom will never teach you.


  1. This is much more than just “school” or the beginning of a “career.” This is the rest of your life. Be extraordinary.



Your ASDA Electronic Editor,

Luke A. Harden

(Shoutout to the nine from Costa Rica '15 for the sand molar...see, you can have fun in dental school)

Breaking Boards Part I

13616175_10153875040902572_566071923_o At this point, you’ve probably discovered that dental school is much like drinking water from a fire hydrant. And, once you start studying for Part 1 Boards, you’ll realize why. To be entirely honest, there’s no way to feel completely prepared to take the exam—regardless of how hard you studied or how well you typically performed in your didactic classes, you’ll undoubtedly feel like you absolutely bombed it. This being said, the national pass rate is astronomically high. According to the ADA’s most recent release of testing data, only 6.3% of students failed in 2013. And, as rumor has it, CU’s pass rate is above the national average. So, to say the least, the odds are in your favor.

Format and Scoring:

The test’s format is pretty basic—a mere 400 multiple-choice questions. Although the questions are broken down into four categories (anatomical sciences, biochemistry/physiology, microbiology/pathology, and dental anatomy/occlusion), you will receive questions at random. In other words, you may have a question regarding the central incisor right after one on kidney pathology. Once you answer 200 questions, you will be rewarded with an optional one hour break—you may take as much of this as you desire. Your score is based off how many questions you answered correctly, and then it is scaled to account for differences in difficulty across exams. Although no one knows for certain, every exam is different, but similar questions do pop up between different versions.

It is rumored that a 55-60% percent score will suffice as a “passing” grade. That being said, the strategy in taking this test is very different from your typical dental exam—read on below to ensure you get that pass.

Studying tips:

  • Start early
    • It’s always best to do a small amount of studying every day instead of saving it for the last few days before the test. Many of my classmates and I began about one month out. It is generally suggested that anywhere between three and five weeks is adequate, but this all depends on your individual studying style.
  • Make a schedule
    • The more organized and diligent you are about setting and sticking to a schedule of studying, the less stress you will experience and the more likely you will pass.
    • If you’re using the decks, break them down into categories, doing a certain number of cards everyday.
    • Leave yourself the day before your exam to relax and do something fun!
    • Base your schedule and exam date off other exams for your didactic classes—it’s easy to forget about your day-to-day responsibilities!
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel—there are plenty of pre-made schedules floating around that are very easy to follow.
  • Diversify your materials
    • There are typically two main sources of study material that students utilize—the Dental Boards Mastery App and the Dental Decks flash cards (from a variety of years). I highly suggest that you use both in some capacity.
    • Chose one source to read thoroughly—use the other simply as flashcards to gain exposure at a high volume.
  • Study smarter, not harder
    • Remember—there’s truly no way to be completely prepared to take the exam. It’s important to realize that the test is extremely hard and that you will miss many questions—don’t overdo it! Understand it’s virtually impossible to get an A—all you need is to pass (actually, you won’t ever see your score)!
    • Focus on the high yield topics—dental anatomy/occlusion and general anatomy. These sections will make or break you—but if you know them well, you can almost guarantee passing. The categories of biochemistry/physiology and microbiology/pathology are so vast that developing a thorough understanding of every detail is unrealistic. Definitely study these topics, but only for surface-level understanding.
    • Implement the sandwich technique—start off with dental anatomy and general anatomy, move on to the lower yield topics, and finish with dental anatomy and general anatomy—this will give you double exposure to the high yield topics, while still making you familiar with the low yield topics.

A day in the life:

Below you will find a play-by-play of a typical day of boards studying:

7:00: Wake up, drink coffee

7:30-10:00—STUDY. Go through the Dental Boards Mastery App, reading thoroughly each card




3:00-5:00—Workout or do something active

5:00-6:00—Eat Dinner

6:00-9:00—STUDY. Repeat the same cards from the morning, or use an alternate source as quick flash cards