25 Years Later – Dental School STILL Sucks!

University of Tennessee College of Dentistry – A “Dream” Review

My dental school ID. I look like I’m 12 years old!

It’s nearly 25 years after graduating from the gruesome experience of dental school, and I’m STILL having nightmares about it.  Literally.  Last night I dreamed that I had to retake a series of tests on the basic sciences.  I was worried I had forgotten too much about the basic sciences.  And, this is not the first time.  I’ve had “dental school dreams” many times – probably 2 – 3 times a year.

Just to be clear up front…  I love being a dentist.  I guess that should be a foregone conclusion for those who know me.  But, even if this blog is your first introduction to me, the blog alone is evidence enough.  Dental school didn’t ruin me for dentistry, thankfully.  I “blossomed” after dental school.  A lot!

I’m 48 years old, and I still occasionally have dreams / nightmares about school.  It really does speak strongly about the mental “trauma” exacted upon us.  I know I’m certainly not the only one.  Many dentists tell me they still have school dreams, too.

Every school is different, and there are some exceptions, but the systematic hazing in dental school seems to be nearly universal.  Full-time faculty were the worst and usually only offenders.  Part-time faculty were sought out by students whenever they were available in hopes of being treated at least humanely.

Mentors?  No.  TORmentors?  Yes.

At the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry (UTCHS), some of the full-time faculty ruthlessly berated students.  It was done in front of other students and even patients in the clinic.  Some instructors were heard bragging to others about how they “gigged” a student.  Lab wax-ups were smashed.  Freshly-placed amalgams were dug at with sharp explorers creating “shy” spots, so they would have to be re-done… again and again.

Late night in the ZIP house lab, trying in our first dentures.  This photo cracked me up back then, and it still does now.

Dental school… HOO!  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothin’… say it again.

At UT Memphis, some of our instructors even challenged some of my classmates physically when there was a disagreement.  “Boy…. maybe we should step outside and settle this.”  This reportedly happened more than once.  This is DENTAL SCHOOL!

Good ol’ Dr. Reid, who taught some of my classmates’ fathers, was famous for looking at anything you had done and muttering, “Won’t work.”  He was one of the fairly “harmless” guys, actually.

Then there was “Diamond” Jim.  He made me do my first occlusal amalgam in the ivorine tooth 32 times before passing me.  I think my record still stands.

My ship: USS Independence CV-62 (now decommissioned).

I’m not kidding when I say that joining the Navy right out of dental school was like going to summer camp for grown-ups.  The military treated me professionally.  It was quite refreshing, relaxing, and I learned a lot in the Navy.  I credit the Navy experience for igniting my love for dentistry.  Since then, I’ve been a C.E. hound, averaging about 100 hours a year.

My ship (USS Independence CV-62) was the first response to the invasion of Kuwait (Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm).  I was in a WAR ZONE (not in combat), and I DON’T have nightmares about THAT.  Dental school?  Yes.  Persian Gulf?  Nope.

Gee…  Why doesn’t anyone want to become a dental school instructor?

Several years ago, the ADA News published a series of reports speculating about the reasons for a shortage of faculty.  Dental graduates were not showing an interest in pursuing academic careers.  I wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the following issue.  (I’ve looked, and dammit… I can’t find a copy.)  In my letter, I did not mince words and explained that our instructors were the antithesis of role models.  It has nothing to do with lower salaries and the perceived rigors of being a professor.  It was simply a matter of abhorring our instructors and having no desire to become one of them.  They weren’t mentors.  They were TORmentors.  Who aspires to that?

We competed in the World Championship BBQ contest every year.

The letter was published unedited (including calling out the University of Tennessee), and it created quite a stir.  I was swamped with letters, emails, and phone calls from all over the country – all in support and thanking me for writing the letter.  In the following issue of the ADA News, the letters to the editor were all about my letter.  Most in support.  Some against.  Not surprisingly those in opposition included letters from dental school instructors.  Go figure.

Interestingly enough, among the personal letters I received was one from one of my (good) dental school instructors.  He agreed with my points and was apologetic on behalf of his colleagues.

I later heard that some of the students at UT pasted copies of my letter all over the school, leading to some very annoyed faculty ripping them down.  I guess I won’t wait for an invitation to speak at UT’s alumni and CE meetings.  🙂

One day I got a call at the office.  My office manager said, “Dr. O’Callahan is on the phone.  He says he’s from the University of Tennessee.”  UH-OH.  I didn’t recognize the name.  But, I took the call.  To my relief, it wasn’t anyone on the faculty.  Rather, he was a graduate… FIFTY YEARS AGO.  He was now retired.  But, he said this (and I quote, as I’ll never forget):  “I just wanted to thank you for that letter you wrote.  Those sons of bitches STILL don’t get it.  I graduated 50 years ago, and I’m still pissed off.  I’ve told Dean Slagle when they finally start treating students right, then he’ll see my donations.”  This old guy was FIRED UP.  I was laughing my ass off, too.

No love lost

But, the school wonders why alumni donations are scarce.  One of my classmates said, “I wouldn’t piss on them, if they were on fire.”  Another classmate put it a bit more colorfully, “I wouldn’t give them the steam off my shit.” 

During my last semester, I had to scramble for those last credits to graduate on time.  In fact, I borrowed more money just so I could actually PAY THE CLINIC FEES for my patients to entice them into treatment.  That’s right…  I paid for the patients’ treatment, so I could graduate on time.  I finished my last credit on the last day the clinic was open.

Don’t worry.  Be happy.

I really love being a dentist.  But, I don’t owe a thing to UT Memphis.  And, I’m not looking back (except in my subconscious nightmares).  It is, however, noteworthy that it’s VERY common among dentists to have these nightmares.  We WERE traumatized, and nothing good comes from that.  We harbor resentment towards our alma maters instead of revering them.  To my knowledge, medical students do not experience such hazing.  Nor should they. Neither should dental students.  It’s simply wrong, but it has been perpetuated as a sick tradition.

Copious amounts of alcohol dulled the sting of dental school hazing.  I won’t name the future dentists in this photo!

I have succeeded despite UT Memphis.  I almost didn’t graduate on time.  I re-did my first amalgam 32 times.  For four years, they told us, “the golden years of dentistry are over.”  They seemed to enjoy telling us we’d never be successful (like them, HA!).  Thankfully, good friendships among classmates kept us sane.  That… and a steady flow of alcohol.

Dental school graduation with my Mom (RIP) and brother.

The best revenge is living well.

But, look at me now, assholes! 😛  I’ve turned into a darned-decent dentist.  I’ve been published many times.  I’m on the national lecture circuit.  I even teach clinical courses… outside of traditional academia.  I DIG this stuff!  It’s my religion!  Get me talking about dentistry, and you won’t get me to shut up.  It’s guys like me that you WANT as faculty.  Well, logic says that you’d want guys like me.  But, you sear our brains with your extreme negativism and hazing, leaving us with no desire to even step foot on campus again.  Donations?  Not if your very existence depended on it.

Now… GET OUT OF MY DREAMS, will ya?  🙁

PS…  I just noticed this is my 88th blog article.  I graduated dental school in ’88.  Coincidence??

PPS…  I’ve been a prolific photographer since I was 12 years old.  I didn’t take a single photo inside the UTCHS College of Dentistry in Memphis.  There wasn’t any memory there that qualified as a positive one to be recorded.  Not one photo of actual dental school.  Hmmmm…

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155 Responses to 25 Years Later – Dental School STILL Sucks!

  1. Steve Markus says:

    Mike, the problem is those without the interpersonal skills to make it in private practice augment their meager income by teaching. So few taught because of their desire to help train future dentists. They were not trained educators. Their didactic skills were based onthose who tortured my father in dental school in the forties, and so it continued back thru time.

    The fear of not graduating takes students trained in scientific method, and separates them from using their brains, but rather, following dogma like the safety and inertness of Hg fillings promulgated by the credentialling organization: the guild that was formed in the 1800’s and is now the ADA.

  2. DrDan says:

    I had virtually ALL the same instructors that you did at UTCHS….including Diamond Jim. In fact, his daughter was in my class. I guess I’m fortunate because literally NONE of them bothered me the entire time I was there. Guess I knew how to stay below their radar. But….I DID witness much of what you describe. IMO “the ‘breath” was the WORST one of the bunch. I personally witnessed him dress down a classmate IN FRONT of the patient there in the clinic before giving him a 50 along side a big “F” written in red ink on the grade card. He told the student (in front of the patient) “you mutilated that tooth!”
    My advice to all dental school students is to just fly low…..stay under their radar…..keep your nose clean (figuratively)….and hope they don’t notice you and therefore leave you alone. Your goal is to survive the experience and just get outta there with your degree.

  3. Jay A. Nelson says:

    My daughter went to undergrad at the same university where I did my dental training. When we were touring, I decided to show her the dental school. Twenty five years after graduating, my stomach was still doing flip flops when I entered the main clinic!

  4. The Dental Warrior says:

    It’s truly amazing how universal this dental school experience is.

    • David Oyster DMD MA CDR SC USN RET says:

      UF 85. Graduated 74 from USNA. thus started dental school late. Because I was older I studied under the radar and had no problems. Did see and here a lot from others but honestly some were trying to skate. I didn’t learn all I needed thus rejoined the Navy on graduation. Like you CE JUNKY. Learned more in two years at Parris Island than 4 years in school. AGD fellow Boarded Periodontist retired 2002. Retired
      From private 2011. Over 6000 hours CE TO DATE. Taught at UF AND MUSC part time over the years. Unfortunately the full timers still teach “from authority” and not science. It is unbelievable the old school crap the pre-docs learn. The perio school doesn’t even teach from Clinical Periodontolgy text. Just from old rehashed duplicated notes. The book is recommended but not required. Teaching the Perio Residents took some time to retrain them! No wonder I am now fully retired with no desire to reach full time.

  5. Although most of us graduated and passed the boards ‘on time’, there were about 5 seniors who either failed the state board the 1st time around, or were deficient in a few units. They remained in the clinics throughout the summer, preparing for the next boards and finishing their requirements.

    Although I passed ‘on time’, a close friend in my dental class didn’t, and worse, had to endure the taunts of one newly-minted p/t assistant professor, an actual fellow student in our class. This particular graduate for some reason vastly enjoyed pimping on these 5 students who, just weeks before, were all equal and in the same senior class as he. Talk about low self-esteem!

    So one day, when my friend phoned me at work, complaining to me yet again how this former fellow classmate turned into a real jerk with a capital ‘J’ today via his new teaching position in the summer dental clinic, and who was giving my friend a hard time, I had had enough.

    I left my little associate position in the city, drove back to UCLA Dental School to meet my friend for lunch, and moments later found the asshole, and confronted him: ‘Look, we all graduated on time, so why are you pimping on your fellow classmates?’ He naturally told me to ‘butt out, its none of your business, Ed’. I responded, ‘Hey, we all went through 4 years of tough times, is this how you’re going to be with other dental students? I think you’re disgusting, you shouldn’t even be teaching with your attitude. You’re an asswipe.’
    THAT pissed him off. My former classmate’s face turned red, and just walked off, speechless. A moment later, he turned to give ME a ‘rude look’ and I just childishly flipped him off, and walked away, where my friend and I continued our lunch, a smile on both our faces. Immature? yes, but did it feel good!

    Later that day, my friend told me that the other 4 members who were still in the dental school environs, and who still had to ‘watch their demeanor’, also gave me the thumbs up sign when they heard what I did Apparently after that, the jerk also lightened up on them, or so I was told.

    And yes, I still have my occasional nightmares about dental school. Who doesn’t? At least this confrontation was indeed a moment to remember in a positive light.

  6. I also went to UCLA and actually have a good dream where I confront one of my Dick professors (Richard “Dickhead” Matsueda) and kick his arse.

  7. Alvaro Fernandez-Carol DDS says:

    Dear Mike and fellow colleagues, I rarely have the nightmares anymore but they were quite disturbing. Why instuctors needed to be such pricks is hard to understand. And the heads of the departments were often the worst. How can you expect donations to the school after creating such animosity? I am thankful for what they taught me but a bit of thoughtfulness on their part couldn’t have hurt. I’ve never sent them a dime. I even thought of creating a legal fees fund so students coulkd have some muscle on our side. Put a little fear in the good ol’ boys network. They certainly did a number on me and a large percentage of my classmates. Oh well, I like to believe I’d make an exceptional instructor: patience,knowledge, guidance, encouraging words. But never in a million years if today’s faculty are anything like when I went to school.Living well is the best revenge. All The Best in 2012!!!! AL

  8. Steve Markus says:

    One of my friends took over 5.5 yrs to get out of Penn, and finally had to sue, or threaten suit, to get his diploma. Psychiatrically devastated by the experience, he “retired” after less than 5 yrs of practice. But what was worse was his roommate Freshman year developed night frights. He was found dead, in his bed, of a coronary, before his graduation year was over. Has anyone ever run across his tormentor, Dr. Austin Robbins?

  9. Dave says:

    I guess I can’t complain about my experience. There are definitely some jerks, sure, but I’ve usually been able to hunt down the good instructors and work with them instead.

  10. Mark Frias says:

    This universal nightmare exists in hygiene school too; just on a smaller scale. Most of the instructors were either dicks, or in our case “bitches”, clueless, or didn’t know how to teach AT ALL. As a male hygiene student I was lucky enough to escape much of the wrath, but for my female classmates, crying seemed to be a weekly, sometimes daily event. I think some of the instuctors got off on that.

  11. Anna says:

    I must say that my dental school had many wonderful instructors. The full-time faculty was extremely helpful, inspiring, and definitely approachable. We were treated as colleagues . Never demeaned or made to feel inadequate in anyway. I went to Baylor College of Dentistry and can confidently say that it was a tremendous experience and I am indebted to not only the education I received but also to the many wonderful mentors. I loved my dental school.

    • Lolabees says:

      Great post! So true about seeking out the part-timers. Though I must say, it bothers me when people say that the reason the teachers work at the dental school is because they are losers and can’t make it in private practice. We used to say that all the time in school. It’s really a defense mechanism to put them down for being such douche-bags to us students. I chose to leave private practice (and the entire career,) but it’s certainly not because I couldn’t make it in private practice, or because I have no people skills. It’s because I didn’t want to make it. I bet there are many teachers that simply didn’t like private practice.

      Why they’re such a-holes? I don’t get it. We had our share too. Especially those OS boys. They thought they were better than everyone else. We had a restorative teacher named Beninger, aka Begin-again-inger. I managed to avoid her throughout, but she would make people start over for the stupidest reasons all the time. I even was bullied by a female instructor until I stopped kissing her a** and started being a bitch back. Funny– she quickly changed her tune and became my BFF. You’re right.

      This is why many won’t donate to their schools. Good for you for speaking up about this. I had some really good times in dental school (appears you did too) but it was a pretty tough time. They can do better. I doubt they’ll ever change though.

      • The Dental Warrior says:

        Thanks for commenting, Lolabees. I truly believe the reason so many instructors are assholes is because that is the CULTURE of dental schools. Like attracts like… Law of Attraction. And, the “leaders” in the school do not see any reason to change the culture. I guess that makes them assholes, too! 🙂

        • Tony Wakim says:

          This is Tony Wakim, Creighton 84 DDS
          At umkc my son Joey 3rd year got dismissed in march because of “communication skills,and other discrimination issues”
          Joey 3.58 finished 2nd year,
          3rd year A,B ‘s , they failed clinic fall 31/60 graded by instructors judgment.
          35 /40 clinical accomplishments.
          66/100 F graded, remediation, set up to fail and dismiss in March.
          The young man is awesome, he is highly functioning Aspergers.
          When they found out , they zoned to get him out.
          We are fighting like hell with lawyers, and ready for the big plunge.
          Any help you can do would be appreciated.
          Tony Wakim 316 993 0259.

  12. edward mcgrath says:

    Yeah school sucked balls. I’m in federal prison now for pills and its less stressful than dental school was.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I had a truly horrific dental school experience and I definitely agree with all of your points. The faculty preyed on students and psychologically tormented them to a great degree. The problem in my view has in fact worsened. Faculty, in addition to performing their classical shenanigans, only respect those that want to specialize and push many students into GPRs. If you disagree with them you are labeled a troublemaker and are constantly harassed. I, as you can probably assume, did not go the GPR rout and have been making my bones in private practice dentistry. I love private practice dentistry because you can start small and get more complicated as you gain more experience in addition to getting paid. The only way to really learn is by doing it in the real world and gaining experience. Compared to some of my friends that went the other rout, they ended up in the same situation I was when I first started out in practice. How do you see 20 patients when you have only seen four a day in the GPR? How do you get patients to say yes to treatment? How do you adapt to your environment? How do you do recession dentistry and for that matter what is recession dentistry? Hell most faculty, especially the full timers, with the exception of a few had no idea of these things. This is evidenced by the 3 visit treatment plan, the 10,000 dollar treatment plan for a patient on disability, the endless consults for a PFM crown on number 30 with half of the tooth missing, etc. I just can’t fathom how a competent general dentist cannot ok a crown or a bridge without having a prostho consult. This stuff still gets to me even after being out for several years. People need successful dentists to emulate not a bunch of jokers (Drs. Oakley and Odonnell)

  14. Barnslayer says:

    Wow! I thought the child beating instructor tradition was unique to NYU.

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  16. MooseDMD says:

    As a recent graduate (May 2011), I’ve only had a small amount of time to get used to the nightmares. Most of them center around the test taking from first and second year and the board exams. My clinical time was relatively easy due to the fact that I was in a special program that let me work/learn out of a small clinic about 100 miles south of the main school. I got to live at the beach and actually enjoy my senior year of dentistry far away from douche-bag professors, it was great.
    That isn’t to say that the one I encountered during the first three years didn’t leave a lasting mark. One that sticks out was during fixed-prosth preclinic sophomore year. Our teacher, who I’m sure is a great prosthodontist, was named Dr. Ab-Yusef (pronounced “Abusive”). That is not a joke. What nightmares about clinical things I do have, almost always center around her teachings and her search for (and always finding) an ‘undercut’. I failed the first few prep/temp practicals in her class due to “illusion” of undercuts. Finally, I said to her “If the undercut is an illusion, why do I get an actual ‘F’?” She didn’t find it as funny as I did. I went on to pass the class and graduate without issue, but that still pisses me off.
    Another thing that I didn’t have to deal with as much due to the the program I was in my senior year, but I heard about nonstop from my classmates was labwork and the Q/A professors. One teacher was infamous for refusing to send cases to the lab due to the fact that the indices on mounted models were not large enough. He would make a student bring the patient back in, do another face-bow transfer (which is totally necessary) and make them pour up another master cast and mount it again just to fix the three little notches you put so that a lab can re-mount it faster.

    The above video kind of shows the story from the other side, how faculty probably see 50% of dental students.

    • don'thavetoknow says:

      Dr. Yousef’s a bitch! I also graduated from UMDNJ (now Rutgers) and I still have nightmares about her and the fixed preclinic.

  17. Matt McGee says:

    I too am an escapee from UT Memphis. Despite having some good friends as classmates, those 4 years were some of the worst in my life. It was such a huge let down to be so excited when dental school started, and then realize that these guys are actually instructors?! Occasionally they would have someone new and great on the faculty, but they didn’t last long and usually left for another university. I think it is terrible the way the students are treated, the way WE were treated. Graduation wasn’t as much of a celebration as it was a relief to be done. I was just glad it was over.

  18. Tom Hadley says:

    I arrived in Memphis two days before school started in 2000 and left the day after Graduation in 2004. I haven’t given a dollar or a flip since. Some of the same old surly instructors are still there but the ones who have retired or died off have been replaced by people with overall educational value. In fairness, some of the best instructors I’ve ever had are mixed in there too (I’m looking at you Tony Wicks, Mike McBride, Lawrence Weeda, and a few others). I think the abuse is a little less but the value of the education is as well. For instance, I do more crowns in a week, sometimes a day, now than students do in two years of clinic. Oh and they can get credit for “sharing” a crown. Overall, UT still does a better job of exposing students to real world dentistry when compared with other schools. I hear all the time about young dentists who have never done molar endo, sectioned a tooth, or even seen a veneer. We did get all of those things, with a side of abuse mind you. UT would probably be the best school in the country if the overall faculty culture changed. Maybe we can take over.

  19. Mike Cook says:

    I should have punched this instructor out! It was my sophomore year. The week before finals my younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. After the funeral I came back to The Ohio State University to to make up the finals a week late. Most of the instructors were very accommodating, although thinking back no one said “don’t worry about it, I’ll just pass you.” A few of my classmates actually stayed behind to help me study and get through it. Then there was Dr D. He wasn’t so sure I wasn’t pulling a fast one. He wanted to see the obituary as proof. I had to drive 130 miles back home to get the Toledo Blade and show him the obit. My only regret is that I was too intimidated by the fact that he was an almighty instructor to knock his two centrals down his throat. Wow, I feel much better now!

  20. edward hines says:

    I graduated from dental school in 1967. I went to Columbia because my father who had graduated from dental school at U of Penn. had told me not to go to Penn. He had told me a story about a classmate of his who had done a piece of work that his instructor told to do over because it was unsatisfactory. His classmate put the work away for 3 days and showed to the same instructor again. The response was ,”Why didn’t you do it like that the first time.”
    My personal dental school experience was very unpleasant. There was intimidation at most levels. Immediately after graduating I went to medical school. I loved medical school. We were treated as prospective colleagues and the goal was to teach not to intimidate, even though in medicine an error can be life threatening. I completed my residency and practiced medicine for 35 years.
    The clinical aspect of dentistry is procedure oriented and viewed very subjectively. What is good or even acceptable work is judged subjectively. I learned to practice quality dentistry but the experience was unpleasant if not painful. I have never donated any money to my dental school but I have donated money to my medical school every year since graduating.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Edward. That’s amazing that you went from dental school to medical school. I had friends that were medical students at the same time and place. They were not hazed like we were.

  21. john p bryson says:

    Just discovered your great blog. I am also a UT grad and I still feel the same as you about the experience. I graduated in 1970. The good news is that the nightmares went away after 30 years!

    A group of us in my class made a pact to never give money to UT when they came calling with their hand out. I have kept my word on that.

    Enjoying your blog and have already found several useful tips and products. Thanks

  22. David says:

    Awesome post. I know two dentists that have graduated from Tennessee and both have told me to steer away from it….maybe they had similar experiences (ages from 40’s to 60’s. ) Do you think dental students have it easier today than your generation had it?
    -David, BrushorDie.com

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for chiming in. I see you have started a blog of your own! Best of luck with it!
      While UT was a rough experience at times, from what I hear it is not unique among dental schools. The theme of hazing dental students seems to extend across many / most dental schools.

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  24. Brad S says:

    Thank you for all your posts. It’s cathartic, to say the least, that I’m not the only one who got screwed over in dental school. Our’s was three profs from the prosth. dept. Being an older student, I stood up for a fellow student who was getting berated by one of these numb skull teachers and after that, I couldn’t get anything completed- lab or clinic no matter the quality. I had to fit check a gold crown 21 times as an example. Had a final denture rejected due to phonetics…my patient used a voice box. I could go further with more horror stories, but knowing that I’m not the only one (and I’m sorry we are all in this group) has made me feel much better. Few can understand the complete worthlessness that is needlessly applied to us, I hope our night sweats will end. Thank you again. Brad MCG

  25. Reid Crumpton says:

    UTCHS ’82. I do not feel that Reid or Kaplan were unreasonable (OK, perhaps a little too much “smooth it a little more” from Kaplan but all in all not a bad guy to me), but Diamond Jim, Bubbles, and some other were worse than useless. I personally did not suffer an exceptional amount of abuse, but there were others who did. Some of the best instructors were part time instructors and did not last long. When I accompanied my daughter to her interview two years ago they made a big point of tell us how the culture had changed and their big goal now was to help the student in any way possible. Perhaps they have seen the light, or the “old guard” has been replaced with a more enlightened leadership. Diamond Jim’s daughter is an instructor there now, and my daughter describes her as a rather benign person (to make up for the sins of her father?) They are attempting to build a top tier research university and they have brought in some heavy hitters for that purpose, but that does not always mean compassionate instruction. Anyway, I have not heard any real complaints or horror stories from my daughter, but then again she is always in lab doing work, so maybe there is no time to complain. I will ask her shortly and see her take on this as she is the one who forwarded the link to your blog. I wonder why…. Sharing common misery or a reflection on my horror stories of the past which she does not encounter?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Reid,

      Thanks for your comments!

      Diane ????, an instructor when I was there. She would look at our wax-ups of “cones” in the lab and unceremoniously flick the “rejects” off the plaster pad with her fingernail and hand it back to us. She wasn’t “terrible.” But, she wasn’t “helpful,” either.

      Ah… the memories!

  26. Ashley Duran says:

    I am looking into being a dentist and am looking at dental schools..
    any recomendations on how to start off, the required classes i should take, where i should go??
    these are all really horrible stories but are there any good colleges out there?
    i reallyyyy want to be a dentist!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Ashley,

      My intent is certainly not to discourage anyone from pursuing dentistry as a career. I do love being a dentist.

      I read a book about how to get into dental school, and it was a big help. I just did a quick search on Amazon and found a bunch.


      The best dental school is the one that accepts you. If more than one accepts you, then you get to be choosy. But, I would recommend graduating with as little debt as possible. Accordingly, I’d stray away from the “prestigious” private dental schools… unless you have wealthy parents who are footing the bill. The bottom line: None of your future patients will care where you went to dental school. And, the real learning comes AFTER dental school.

      Good luck!

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  29. Tara says:

    I just love all of these photos – they bring back so many memories of college days! Thanks for posting this and I love reading your blog!

  30. Rachel says:

    Wow!! I am so happy i found this blog and people that I can relate to. I just finished my first year of dental school and I can’t even begin to describe how ruthless some of the profs/ instructors are. It’s so unfortunate that dental school is so ridiculously competitive to get into and prospective students get so excited to start the year yet its a nightmare from day one!! We have jam packed days (8am – 6pm) and of course days get longer starting second semester. And are expected to know and barf out EVERY single piece of information given to us during lectures come exam time – which are scheduled back to back. I took 14 exams in 2 weeks ( head and neck, pharm, path, physio, occlusion, medicine, system anatomy, radiology, etc) 4 months into the program. I’m grateful to have good dexterity but I’ve seen people break down and cry because of the “feedback” they got from profs on wax ups. Can you imagine how sad/ disturbing it is to watch your 31 year old male colleague get emotional over his “unsatisfactory” 7th class 1 prep? And seriously, how many practicing dentist actually sit around waxing??? And then spend 2 hours adjusting height of contour and making the cinculum just sightly more distal??!? And it’s so aggravating when the profs/ instructors walk around as if you OWE them something and its a privilege for you to be in their presence?!? Umm…hello I’m paying full tuition and earned a well earned 3.8 science gpa to be here! Gosh – it makes me sad that I’ve become this cynical person just in this past year and makes me question where I’m heading with my life?!? I don’t want to leave dental school because i actually enjoy the clinical aspect but I’ve lost some dear people in my life this year and this reminds me how short life is – are the 3 additional years of brutality really worth it? I recognize that nothing worth having comes easy in life – but does losing sleep and sanity over it actually worth having? I’m only on summer vacation after 1 year of dental school and I already have nightmares of my dental anatomy prof and operative instructors – what’s going to happen 3 years from now?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Hang in there. Fly low… under the radar as much as you can. Work hard. Party hard. We did!

      Your friend got upset after only his SEVENTH class 1? haha! I was just getting warmed up a bit at #7. I did mine 32 times before getting checked off. Today, my dentistry would blow them all out of the water.

      Just get THROUGH dental school. Then the real learning (and fun) begins. And, I mean that in a good way!

  31. Marie says:

    I have been practicing for 33 years and still have nightmares! At 24 and graduating from OSU dental on a 3 year condensed program my hair turned grey and I unknowingly developed chronic GI problems. I was under the radar as much as possible, thank god! I was told that I gave my patients too much info and that I would never succeed in private practice. I now have 3 hygienists, 2 asst., 2 front desk people and do hospital dentistry. I was in the middle of the road student and cried almost daily! When the school calls for money, and they usually have students do this,Ha, I always ask if weaver is still there! He told me that when I had problems suturing to come get him. I sew couture clothing and have won national awards as I started when when I was 8 sewing. Now it is kind of fun to dump crummy work on oral surgeons and tell them they are referral dependent!! Patients that don’t pay or complain about parking or the weather go to see them! I was in a class where 7% were women. Our hair tied back men with long hair, no problem! I survived with counseling for a deteriorated self esteem. No money to OSU!! they should pay for our tums! One girl commited suicide 3 months out of school! They never put that in the alumni newsletters! How would these people like it if their children were treated this way?
    OSU had the nerve to send someone to my office without an appointment to ask for money! Needless to say nothing from me! An abused classmate puts one penny in the envelope to create paperwork for them!!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Sadly, it’s very common (but not talked about much).

  32. Marie says:

    I little addition, my daughter is in a different dental school, much better, different nightmares. Still a fight for patients chair time and the boards are now a nightmare!!!

  33. DDS says:

    Wisdom Coleman was horrible.

  34. Lauren, RDH says:

    Stumbled across your blog post this morning and as an RDH I can totally relate to this. It even continues in hygiene school. Maybe one day those darn instructors will get it right?…

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Lauren,

      It’s the CULTURE of dental schools. If it was only a few individual rogue instructors, it would be an easy fix. But, it’s an environment that cultivates and encourages this behavior.

  35. Dan says:

    Sup colleagues. Nice blog. I’ve been practicing 17yrs graduated from Columbia U, NY. That sht was a nightmare. Oddly enough after prosth school 6yrs later at Pittsburgh the messed up PTSD type dreams sort of ended maybe coz grad school didn’t have any hazing, actually not sure. In any case from 3rd yr columbia I made a promise I would nt stay in dentistry long. Still working on that. I practice in my home country Kenya, Africa. Take care y’all

  36. Columbia sucks. says:

    CDS was the very same. I had okay grades. Back in ’94 you could get your license without residency. I got my license but no residency. Two of us in the class were going into “private practice” according to our dean. The other girl went into economics upstate. I had a son 2 months after I graduated so no job for me and that was it. I never set foot there again. I never asked any of the snotty professors for a letter of recommendation. Truly a waste of 4 perfectly good years and tons of dollars. I did a little dental hygiene but figured I wasn’t going to work at that for the rest of my life. Luckily I have 4 kids to keep me busy. CDS back then was called CDOS did me no favors. The old deans are gone but that doesn’t mean that the new are any better. They really don’t give a damn or at least didn’t for me. This degree and license served me no good.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for your comments. So, you never practiced as a dentist?

      • Columbia sucks. says:

        You are correct. I never did. Still have my license though just in case I am poverty stricken or something. I could possibly fall on it. It’s strange a classmate of mine said that it costs more to work than you can ever make between insurance or laboratory fees. Unless someone is willing to work for many hours and invest their own money, it’s a losing situation. Columbia sent me save the day for my 20th graduation reunion. I don’t think I would ever set foot there again. My husband supports me. Ironically, the reason I went to dental school was so I could support myself. I so wish I would have gone to NYU.

  37. Another brick in the wall says:

    I am sorry you had a bad time in D-school. I graduated recently (2 years ago) from a school in CA and loved it.

    Also, I am new to your website. Thanks for all the wonderful stuff you have said and will continue to say.

    Spot on about corporate dentistry. That’s what gives me nightmares. It bugs me so much that I worked for so hard and for what?

    Lastly, Happy belated birthday!!

  38. Craig says:

    I am a first year student. I read Rachels post and I cringe for what is ahead. I am terrible at everything related to hand skills. In waxing I am near the bottom of the class and will barely pass, if at all. As a first year student we use DentSim, a computerized simulation unit that grades us one various cavity preparations. We did all simple preps only class I and class IIs yet I could not pass a single tooth. I was the only one in the class that I know of that failed every single tooth. My question: How and when does one know that dentistry is not for him/her? Or how will I know when I cannot become a competent dentist? I just doubt whether or not I have the ability to become competent, to develop the hand skills to pass boards etc. I am not in my first week struggling and overreacting, I am nearly through my first semester of dental school and I am near the bottom of the class in all of the hand skills.

    Thanks and great blog, good to know everyone struggles in dental school and its not just me

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Craig,

      Sorry to hear of your challenges. I think it boils down to whether you really want to be a dentist. I think hand skills CAN be learned. It just takes some longer than others. I had to re-do my 1st class 1 amalgam in the model tooth 32 times. Today, I dare say I’ve got some pretty skilled hands.

      If you want to be a dentist, don’t give up. Practice. Get tutored. Do whatever you have to do. Keep the faith!

      • Another brick in the wall says:

        Hi Craig
        I too agree with the Dental Warrior. It does boil down to how badly you want to be a dentist. I am also one of the people to whom hand skills did not come naturally or easily. At all. It was hours upon hours of spending time in lab and working on it.
        Do what you need to do and believe in yourself. Good luck.

    • Columbia sucks. says:

      Craig, it only gets harder. Don’t go against your gut. Your gut will tell you what is right for you. I never had your problems but still got no residency. Even with good skills that doesn’t mean anything in this profession. There were those who were so bad and yet they got a residency. It’s a political system. Do you want to spend 3 more years like this. Class on amalgam are real easy. It’s so strange they are still teaching that. The new concept is to go with posterior composites. They preserve so much more tooth structure. They are not doing the patient any favors with amalgams. Good luck to you and know this isn’t the real world. If you can graduate dental school and get into a residency, you will be set. Without it like me, it will be a waste of 4 years unless you know someone in the field who will give you a job or can open up your own office. I had neither. It’s all who you know in just about any field.

  39. Michaela says:

    My daughter is one of those who was accepted into a number of schools and gets to be choosy. Is there a way for her to find out how the instructor quality and particularly the “putz factor” compares at the different schools?

  40. orthomom says:

    Hi Mike,
    A classmate sent me a link your your blogpost as we prepare for our own 25th reunion. I appreciate your bringing attention to this, because I hear similar complaints from many of our contemporaries. During my tenure at UT I did see such hazing by a handful of instructors who I’m sure are all dead and gone, rest their souls. But those memories don’t keep me from attending reunions or giving money to the dental school. Just a few points I’d like to make:
    1) My dad experienced the same hazing when he was in dental school at another institution. I think it was a generational thing. Some highly regarded dentists from that era were also ones who threw instruments at their “girls” when they weren’t trying to seduce them after all the patients were gone. (The Mad Men era.) Some skewed perception also made them think they were building character and protecting the “fraternity” of the profession by hazing.
    2) One of the worst hazers (from Removable lab) would always choose at least a couple of folks seemingly at random to pick on. I happen to know 2 of those folks from our era who went on to become highly skilled and regarded dental specialists. They are stellar individuals. How that instructor selected his victims is beyond me, and his behavior was totally inexcusable.
    3) There are always going to be folks who learn to work the system. I knew a lot of dental students who would barter patients for the procedures they needed and never seemed to worry about actually providing comprehensive care for their patients. You and I weren’t that smart, apparently, and were running under the wire to meet our requirements based on the patients who were assigned to us.
    4) One of my favorite friends is a former instructor who has retired to our community. They weren’t all bad, and many had the best interest of their students at heart.
    5) It doesn’t seem to be that way at the dental school now. Several of my colleagues have kids there now. They have facility and funding issues and the stresses of grad school, but the hazing seems to be a thing of the past.
    6) UT dental has been pitifully funded by our state legislature. Don’t get me started about how shortsighted our legislators are not to fund higher education appropriately. Our citizens deserve well trained dentists. The lottery money has helped ease the crisis in higher education a bit, but there’s still a long way to go at the dental school. The sad reality is that our once sleek, modern, spacious facility looks old and worn out and small. They’ve been slowly renovating and upgrading, but it’s been an uphill battle.
    7) While you may have hard feelings for some of the instructors or administrators, the truth is that you have made a good living thanks to the dental education you received. You are paying it forward to the profession with your blog. But giving a little money to a much deserving institution for the sake of the future generations of dentists and patients wouldn’t be too much to ask, in my humble opinion. Even if it’s not your alma mater.
    8) Hopefully the camaraderie you developed with your classmates over the 4 years of brutality would make it worth reconnecting with some of them at a reunion.
    Best wishes to you for many nightmare-free nights ahead!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Marie!

      I remember you, especially since you married my classmate, Mitch. Mitch and I spent four years in “close proximity,” since we were seated right next to each other in the labs and clinics in alphabetical order. Please give my regards to Mitch. I remember him well. Good guy! Does he still wear bowties? 😀 I’ve checked both of your websites out… you both look great!

      As I mentioned in my blog article, the friendships with classmates were critical in dental school survival. If it wasn’t for my friends, I might have lost my mind! 🙂

      I’ve heard from some sources that they’ve changed at UT (and other schools). I’d LIKE to believe it’s true. But, I remain VERY skeptical.

      While I can’t argue that my dental education STARTED with UT, I will submit that I am the dentist I am today DESPITE my experience at UT. My 3 years in the U.S. Navy was a FAR better learning experience than dental school. Throw in ~2,500 hours of CE that I’ve attended since graduation… voluntarily… and that’s where I put the “credit” for my “success.’ Fortunately, my innate tendency towards non-comformity has nullified my experience at UT Memphis. In other words, I didn’t let the bastards at UT grind me down completely. I recovered through persistence and a love for what I do.

      I’m curious about how many of my classmates attended the reunion. I’m guessing VERY, VERY few. And, that is telling, unfortunately. Many of us are not willing to “forgive and forget.” The best revenge is living well, as they say. 😀 I would very much enjoy seeing my classmates again.

      I understand that you are compelled to “defend” UT, and I appreciate your comments. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog! Tell Mitch hello!

      • orthomom says:

        My dear husband named off every classmate in your pictures! We remember those times well. And yes, he’s still a bow tie man. He sends his best regards.
        We did attend his 25th reunion with about 15 other classmates. I hope there will be a few more at mine in a couple of months.
        I stayed on for ortho in Memphis and we both had gone to college there, so we enjoy our opportunities to visit across the state. Most every year we’ve got one reunion or another. I know many hold the city in as poor a regard as the dental school, but we have our favorite haunts to re-visit.
        Best wishes, and I’ll be following your blog now that I know it’s there!

        • The Dental Warrior says:

          I really miss the BBQ. Can’t get good BBQ down here in Florida. Memphis has the best BBQ! Had a good live music scene, too.

  41. SumGirl says:

    I am in my senior year of d school and this stuff all still rings true. Could not agree more that I would not piss on them if they were on fire. Good luck collecting money for a new school.

  42. Abe says:

    Hello Dr. Mike, 3rd year student here and new subscriber to your blog. One of our instructors at MWU, Gary Takacs, recommended it very highly. Thanks for your posts! Reading through the comments, I would like to chime in for MWU. We have difficult days and difficult faculty just like anywhere else. We spend the same long nights studying for basic science, and plenty of days in clinic/sim clinic from 7 AM – 7 PM, but I can’t say I’ve ever experienced any grossly unnecessary stress. As we are a new school, most of our faculty were recruited because they wanted to teach, which I think is huge. Clinic instructors typically close their practice and relocate to teach here within the span of months. I’ve personally taught for over 7 years, gone through both an undergrad and masters before d-school, and the two faculty who supervise me on the clinic floor are – bar none – the best teachers I’ve ever had. It is an honor and privilege to work with them. I will definitely be donating to MWU (once my student loans are paid off!!).

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Abe! Thanks for checking out the blog. 🙂

      I’m glad to hear your d-school experience has been good. And, I’d like to think that there has been a change in the dental school culture in general. But, I remain very skeptical at this point.

      If I won the biggest Powerball Lotto in history, I wouldn’t give a dime to my dental school. I really wouldn’t. Though I’d give a big chunk of change to St. Jude Hospital, right around the corner. 🙂

  43. Dr. SB Kaplan says:

    I went to the University of Louisville Dental School and graduated in 1976. For the most part our instructors were positive and helpful. Sure, there were a few cranks, but most did their jobs well. Dental school is stressful enough without instructors adding to it. Sorry to hear your experience was so negative. I have had dental nightmares also, related to tests, or my teeth loosening up, but they’re not very frequent. From what I hear today, overall economics and patient demands have made the profession more challenging. Students saddled with big loans to finance their careers carry a greater burden than in my day. I’m glad I’ve settled into part-time practice as an associate after selling my practice. The decreased stress has made practicing much more enjoyable.

  44. 310DDS says:

    I completely agree with you. It started for me during my interviews to get into dental school. Most were good experiences, except one. This old geezer at Columbia made me sit on a little ottoman clear across the room. The interview was about to begin when the secretary came in for something and asked him why I was sitting over there. Only then did Dr. A-hole let me come up to his desk. Then he started harping on my math score on the GRE. Mind you, I was about to receive my masters degree in 5 months, but he had an issue with my high school algebra. During the tour, our student guide even told us “Don’t come here unless you want to specialize”. So, I didn’t. The dental school I ended up attending wasn’t much better – it took me a good 3 years before I could even drive by the building without getting anxiety. I only send donations to my residency program at Marquette. They treated me with respect from the first day to the last, and I didn’t forget it.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi 310DDS,

      The sitting on an ottoman across the room for your interview is just WEIRD. And, when the dental student tour guide is discouraging you, that’s not a good sign, eh?

  45. RDH Fitz says:

    My son’s convocation from UT is today and graduation tomorrow, except he can’t participate in ceremonies because he’s lacking in a single perio component. His dad is a deceased DDS UT alum ’82 and I am a UT DH alum. Really disappointing today he can’t celebrate with his class. But he will finish, he will get his diploma and will be a practicing DDS in the future.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Bummer. I almost didn’t make it. Got my last credit (perio, incidentally!) on the last day before graduation. Good luck to your son!

  46. The Traveling Smile says:

    The hazing traditions are universal to professional dental education, it seems. I was at MUSC in the 90’s and we all suffered at the hands of these same personalities. Disgusting treatment of future professionals with no positive benefit. I do LOVE dentistry and it is an exciting time to practice. To the younger generation, especially Craig, never let anyone steal your dream. Dental School is an endurance test. You can learn clinical skills if you want it enough. DON’T let them make you quit. Exercise your smiles!

  47. Kendal Graham says:

    OMG, I’m working my butt off to get into dental school at UT right now and this terrifies me!!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Kendal,

      I certainly don’t want to scare anyone. If you really want to be a dentist, then do what you have to do. I’d like to believe the culture has changed at UT twenty-five years later. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Keep your head low. Fly below the radar as much as possible. Keep your eyes on the goal.

  48. Mack (college student) says:

    oh boy. my oldest sister and father went to memphis medical school, and memphis has always been a top choice for me. Reading this changes it. I thought anxiety in college was bad…… i am so wrong. Cant wait to see what happens.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Mack,

      My intent isn’t to frighten anyone. I always like to say, “Your mileage may vary.” I’ve heard that things have changed for the better. I hope it’s true. Ultimately, you should chase your dream and not let anyone discourage you. Do what you’ve got to do, and forge ahead. Best of luck!

  49. OC says:

    Stumbled upon your blog while I was google about isolite 🙂 good read. Just wanna share my experience at BU about 5-10 years ago (graduated in 08). It was not so much a hazing, but the lack of actual education that despise me. I felt very little of the 4 years spent there I can actually bring to daily practice now, I felt most of my skills and style were developed during the residency year (GPR). It’s a waste of 200k and 4 years of life, but unfortunately without it you cant get the license to practice. I remember worked so hard through college to get in dental school, sacrifice a big chunk of college experience IMO, thinking once inside the door it will be downhill from there, but far from the truth. Fighting for clinic time, and actually decipher the mumbling of full tenure professors so we can actually learn something is a constant struggle. I remember in senior year near graduate I had this intense fear that I felt I dunno anything and I am about to make a living out of it…..However, when I had nightmares it was not about dental school though, but rather the clinical board exam.
    Good blog, I will become a follower 🙂

    PS: thinking back, when I was a junior I asked one of my good instructor if he went back and visited his alma mater ( which was just right down the street from us), and I could see fear in this 50ish years old man’s eyes and he winced from the question like it was actually hurting him. I couldnt understand why back then, but I do now.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Wow. Thanks for sharing your story, OC. Sadly, it is very common.

      Glad your GPR was productive. We used to say that your diploma is really your license to learn. Take lots of CE, too! It will pay dividends later. Best wishes.

  50. Raz says:

    Funny, I had a dental school interview not too long ago. And one of my interviewers thought it would be cute to play “bad cop” and try to intimidate me by picking apart one of my completely unscripted answers. (I didn’t have any answers “locked and loaded” because I didn’t want to be fake.) After about two minutes of uninterrupted scolding full of hypocritical bullshit, I did something I’m pretty sure he’s not used to. I stood up to him.

    In fact, I turned the tables on him fast. I asked him to explain the pass/fail rates of his school, the nonexistent alumni donations, and why he was asking me questions that I had answered on my application. And I didn’t let him dodge. He literally started to squirm in his seat and, suddenly, I noticed the unnatural amount of eye contact he had been making with me stopped. I mean, I had really made him uncomfortable.

    Hilariously, he had earlier asked me what I thought a weakness was and I told him “I’m not good in confrontations.” But I think he confused that to mean that I was afraid of them. And I went really easy on his hypocritical tirade. Needless to say, I don’t imagine I’m going to get an acceptance letter from that school. But if dental school is nothing but a 4 year hazing ritual, then count me out. I can find a million better things to do with myself.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Wow. Good for you, standing up for yourself. My brother was being interviewed for medical school by a person of middle-eastern origin who asked my brother what he thought about the situation over there. My brother told him it was an inappropriate question. My brother still got accepted.

  51. John says:

    Thank u for your blog, I applied to some dental schools and if I got acceptances from UT and Case Western(Cleveland, Ohio), what is your suggestion for me to pick one?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi John,

      Congrats on your acceptance(s)!

      Honestly, the way things have gone (economically), I’d recommend choosing the one that will cost you the least. Minimize your debt as much as possible. Any dental school should make you competent upon graduation. The real learning comes from experience and lots of continuing education. Good luck!

  52. John says:

    I love your blog, thank you.

  53. Roula says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. So good to know that my dental school isn’t the only one that beats its students down because I’ve been feeling like I made the wrong choice.
    I have been told numerous times by the affiliates that they hated every minute of dental school and that it gets better, but sometimes I wish that they would stand up for the students since they seem to get how we feel. Unfortunately even if they did, the old farts that run the place would be too stubborn to even listen or care.

    I think one of the biggest problems with the teaching protocols is that so much of what we spend our time doing gravitates around LAB WORK. Most dentists that I have spoken to never, ever, ever do their own lab work; it’s tedious, annoying, and a waste of our time. We spend 14 hours a day at school and then go home only to study for more classes. I understand the importance of knowing how the dental labs work so that you can know where things went wrong and improve, or pick a new lab. However why must I set denture teeth for 14 cases to graduate?! Why must I cast 20 crowns?! And WHY do you call me out in front of the class and humiliate me because of a casting error- did this really never happen to any of you?

    It annoys me that the school constantly talks about efficiency in the clinics- well if you want us to see more than 2 patients a day then I think it’s crucial that you hire a lab to do the grunt work or invest in more of the new technology! Our school has an E4D and WON’T LET US USE IT!

    So many frustrations- I feel I could rant for hours and still have more to say.
    So again, thank you for reminding me that we are not alone. I’m sharing this with all my classmates in hopes that they, too, can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for your comment, Roula. The more things “change,” the more they stay the same. I’ve been assured that UT Memphis has “changed for the better.” I don’t believe it… not for a minute.

  54. Gabi says:

    I typed into the Google search bar: “how to quit dental school.”
    And your article was on the bottom of the first page.

    I’m a very depressed third year dental student.
    I’m glad I found this post.
    I have been experiencing such offensive hazing by the faculty and it has been one after another, not giving me time to recuperate and recover. It definitely is traumatizing. And I just can’t get over it.
    On the spot, I’m very nice, and receptive, but in actuality I’m blankly just replying because I can’t get myself to say what I want to say, also I don’t think I can be my normal combative self. Especially in the presence of a patient. And that’s what hurts the most, being embarrassed, utterly disrespected and treated unprofessionally.
    And being married at the same time doesn’t always help either. Dental school is ruining both our lives.
    I’m trying…by emphasizing to myself and others to do good work and make good friends. Because we’re just all surrounded by assholes.
    But yeah, gladly I do have great friends and family—but you still definitely feel like a lone, helpless soldier, because no one can understand the hell that dental school is.
    Especially since we all hoped for a “mentor” but the fact is completely contrary.
    My dental-alumni-landlord said that he pretty much just went fulfilled the basic requirements—and it felt nice to receive such practical advice. So that’s why I’m trying to do as well.
    But sigh…every day sucks knowing your spirit will be broken.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Gabi,

      Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your story. At this point (almost half-way through your third year)… you’re on the downhill side. As bleak as it may seem right now, I’d say, “hang in there!” The great news is that once you’re out of school, you can do whatever you want. You can learn whatever you want. You can do the procedures you like and not do the ones you don’t like. And, as your career progresses, your interests may change. What you didn’t like before… now interests you. You can change it up any way and any time you want.

      Dental school WILL eventually end… when you graduate. Then you can tell them to kiss your ass. The saying goes, “The best revenge is living well.” Good luck!

    • Pahham says:

      Do you mind if I ask you where do you go to a dental school?

  55. Pahham says:

    Dear Doctor:

    I just found your weblog after getting acceptance from UT-Memphis and Case Western- Cleveland, UT is 100K$ cheaper than me Cleveland for four years. If I want to go for residency program which one is better, since 2012 there is no NBDE score and the acceptance for residency is based on class rank, GPA, recommendations.
    Could you please give some advice? I am an international student who live in US since 4 years ago and have family(wife and a daughter)

    • The Dental Warrior says:


      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. These days, my feeling is that a dental student should try to minimize his or her debt as much as possible. That means spending as little as possible. All dental schools go through the same accreditation process. And, patients do not care at all about where you went to school. Go to the least expensive school! Don’t dig yourself into a deeper financial hole than necessary.

      I can’t really comment on residencies. But, ultimately, the greatest amount of learning happens in the practice and with continuing education. That’s my opinion.

  56. Dooder says:

    I, too, am a UT graduate many moons ago. When I attended UT, we had about 150 men and 10 women. We could show no fear or weakness.

    I still have nightmares about not have my ten units of fixed, or my maxillary denture having no suction, and wake up in a tizzy. Then I realize I am an old fart, and none of that matters anymore.

    As far as faculty picking on students, what I remember is that most just didn’t care. They just sat in their office until we needed a check, came out, grunted a little, and shuffled back. I wasn’t good enough to be on the “Diamonds” radar, but he was a perfectionist who truly cared about the students and teaching them the right way. The one truly enjoyable place to learn was down in Pedo, w/ Dr. Sharp, who was a delightful person.

    I do not miss one moment of my UT experience, and still get the chills when I drive by the building.

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  58. Anna says:

    Made me feel so much better just now. In a depressed late night (morning) net surfing while dreading the return of your nightmares when uni starts in March :/

  59. Dr W says:

    Just stumbled across this and could hardly believe what I was reading. I had just told my son about Diane flicking my cones off the plaster when I read the comments about that very thing! I still remember her face when I asked her to tell me what I had done wrong so that I could make them better he next time…she just looked at me as if I were stupid and refused to tell me. I cannot imagine why the college would keep her on as an instructor.

  60. ellebelle says:

    Honestly, yes dental school sucks. But it is interesting. I went to UPenn (I call it “The Penitentiary”) and I have friends that went to Temple. Upenn was actually “the cheapest” school thanks to a great scholarship. We all agree that dental school sucked and we would never do it again. Must be something about the Philly schools. My group leader was BRUTAL, but I did learn. I have met some that loved UPenn and had easy group leaders or they loved XYZ school. My experience is that when they got into GPR or private practice they were behind in learning. Don’t get me wrong…I think that there are a lot of dental school instructors that need to go…and the sooner the better. But the ones that were tough, but fair, I am grateful for. Especially the tough ones that would explain to you how to do something better. I think it is the ones (or staff members) who showed ridiculous bias (for or against other students) or who blatantly ignored wrongdoing or cheating that make me angry.

  61. H H says:

    I can’t believe I found this site. It is the first time I have ever found a place where so many people can relate to what I went through.

    I stayed in dental school for 1 year. The goal of the curriculum was to put the students under so much stress to find their breaking point. If you didn’t break, you were allowed to graduate with all kinds of neuroses and psychological problems. The goal was not to make better dentists, it was to haze the student to the point of breaking under the guise of that is what it took to become a “professional”.

    After I quit, I had a huge case of PTSD, had lost my hair in only a year, lost the ability to read, could not think or reason, and would lose track of time for hours and sometimes days on end. It took 5 years just to be able to function normally and maintain an outward appearance of calm, and 30 years later I still am haunted by nightmares about being back in dental school. I guess I will be haunted to the day I die. Half of my class resigned by the end of the 2nd year.

    The instructors were worthless. All the students picked up on the fact that they all hated dentistry. With almost no exception, they were all teaching because they had failed in private practice. And they hated their jobs. I remember one dentist telling me that dentistry was boring and very unfulfilling and he didn’t understand why we wanted to become one.

    And these idiots would allow students to get to their senior year and then flunk them out for political reasons. How unfair. All that time and money spent and nothing to show for it and no way to earn a living to pay it back. And they would not allow them to transfer to medical school.

    And every dentist I have ever had has told me the same thing; that they would never go to dental school again if they had to do it over. And they all battle depression.

    Across the board dental schools have an abusive culture. I don’t know why. Abuse doesn’t make anyone better at anything. And it sure doesn’t make someone a professional.

    Today, I laugh at dentists. I have a better job and make more money than them and am much happier. And my life is much better than it would have been.

    Living well is the best revenge.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      While I sympathize with your limited dental school experience (not even one year), I disagree with your concluding statement that you “laugh at dentists” and “have a better job.” A lot of dentists are very happy in their jobs. Some, not so much.

      While there is no love lost for my dental school, I do very much enjoy what I do. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy interacting with (most) people. I can’t imagine doing anything else. But, I don’t think “my job is better than yours.”

      If you are happy in your work… any work… then your are, indeed, fortunate. Good for you. Good for me. 🙂

      • H H says:

        You are indeed fortunate that you enjoy dentistry. You are the kind of dentist I would love to have. Unfortunately for me, every dentist I have ever had has effectively told me they made a mistake by going into dentistry. I have not found single happy general dentist (except for the specialists. Oral surgeons and periodontists seem to be very happy).

        Mine told me that the reason she only works 4 days a week isn’t because she is making enough that she can afford to do so. She says the stress of doing the physical work and running a small business is very high and she just can’t do it more than that.

        I should not have said “laugh”. The feeling is more like a mixture of pity and relief that I am not in their shoes.

  62. FARZIN says:


  63. ellebelle says:

    There is a great ADA editorial from last month’s news edition entitled “Is Cheating the New Norm?”. I experienced this first hand at my dental school in, ahem, the great state of Pennsylvania. For years I would not give a dime, mostly related to my first year lab experience. I sat next to a student from overseas that cheated on almost every practical dental exam…you heard me right….and they best part…several of us complained about it…the faculty did….nothing. Later that year I found out from my father that one of his good friends and fellow colleagues quit teaching at the same institution because when he caught a cheater and told the student he was getting a zero, mommy and daddy lawyered up and he was told he could either apologize or resign. This crap has gone on for too long . My father was hazed like hell at his PA school (different institution) but cheating was not tolerated. We both went to the same undergraduate college where cheating meant a one way street to suspension and possibly expulsion. All of this was so different at my dental school and such a shock. To think, these are fellow dentists? No wonder much of the public hates us.

  64. Jessica says:

    I should have graduated with my class, yet I am spending the summer at clinic. Its a really disheartening experience. I have been through so much the last 8 months. I dont know if any of this will ever be worth it. Ill never get those years back. I think its one of the worst experiences anyone goes through.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      I had several classmates in that same predicament. In the end… if you want to be a dentist… if you like dentistry, it will be worth it. You will get through it. It’s just another hoop to jump through. But, yeah… it sucks.

  65. kezia says:

    Just stumbled across this … I wouldn’t change a word … you nailed it … and the comments were overwhelming. I am an intern right now i have been told recently by my “mentors” you are not fit to be a Doctor .. you should be ashamed of yourself . Since then i have been regretting my decision by joining this profession . There are days i have cried myself to sleep. But there were some human beings (mentors) who have supported me as much as they can and have seen my capabilities.Lately i have been having doubts about my skills. I explained my ” Fear of not being good Doctor” to these good human beings (mentors) they said i will do fine. I am glad i stumbled across this, needed to hear something like this and i think i really hope I turn out to be a good at my profession.
    Three months more in this hell and then i won’t even look back at these tormentors.

  66. Mitchell says:

    I seriously hate dental school right now. It’s so demanding emotionally and academically, sometimes I don’t even know how I will make it. What sucks the most is not getting along with your class because you just don’t fit in. It’s like a high school popularity contest all over again, can’t wait to get out of this hole. A lonely journey for me at least!

  67. Reese Lunsford says:

    Dr. Sharp, Dr. Weeda, Dr. McBride, Dr. Wicks are all still there. And still great. Along with so many more. Those are heads of departments. And unless there was a sister, Diamond Jim’s daughter’s name is Marjorie. And she is a sweet lady and very funny. May not have been at one time but is today. Just graduated in May and bought a practice from 2 other doctors who now work for me for now before retirement. Graduated from Memphis, and on the WHOLE, the faculty are much better. There are still asswipes of course, but most are pretty cool. The policies of the school are what is ridiculous. We cannot even schedule our own patients but have to go through a Scheduler, so if you see an open chair you have to wait sometimes a day to book it instead of immediately, and then of course, it is taken. Patients cannot just walk in, they have to go through orientation, then come back to OD, then do a tx plan, then do a prophy which we don’t get credit for, then get on with actual dentistry. There is now a group leader program which gives some autonomy to them in dictating tx, but the school still makes them get a Perio CONSULT, or a prosth, or endo. And not ddx themselves, as if we are not gonna have to do that in priv. prax. We do not get to retreat endos or drill thru’ crowns, all this is referred up to grad endo. Those docs are for the most part cool as well but so many things were taken from undergrads needing endo it got frustrating sometimes.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      After so many years, I may have gotten some first names wrong. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s sad that while some things may have changed for the better… much of the dental school experience has not changed and remains a negative experience.

  68. Brian says:

    What a great article…I LOVED it….hit the nail on the head. My father taught dental school for 34 years at UMKC and LOVED his students. By the time I got there, it was exactly as you described….20% of the instructors were there to help students, the other 80% were there to hide/destroy all confidence the students had. Ive heard it has gotten worse in the last 15 years in the school. Leadership is responsible for the culture of the dental schools. They are taking instructors who have no passion for dentistry. Their only passion was to flirt with the good looking female students. Instructors should be building up the confidence of the students and helping them with constructive criticisms, not shattering their self esteem every chance they get. Dental schools need to start hiring more part time faculty who are in private practice, and have a passion for dentistry. I thank God that I had 2 instructors that shared thier passion with me and got me through. Again, thanks for the article….I laughed out loud and then shared it with my classmates I still talk to….the “steam of my shit” comment was well done.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for your comments, Brian. It’s sad to hear that the pathological culture persists.

  69. Howard L. Brownfield DDS says:

    Where do I start? I am a UT graduate class of ’73. We had the hazing as it’s been called. I tried to fly beneath the radar and succeeded most of the time. Our class president had been to West Point and didn’t take anything off anybody. We literally changed some of the crazy rules by taking our arguments to the dean and heads of departments. We got students reinstated who had been unfairly flunked. We found out we had clout when we stuck together. We got the first black student since reconstruction reinstated after he was flunked by 2 racist instructors. Our class stuck together. I was vice president during some of this and was in on meetings of the dean. Bad dreams? Yes! But not in a long time. Do I give to the school? I never have. Some of the instructors hated us but were somewhat afraid of us. It helped that Dean Wells, who wasn’t inbred in the system brought fresh air to the school. I graduated with honors and practiced for 25 years and loved it. I have retired due to medical issues but life is good. There is life after teeth!

  70. Carla DMD says:

    I had a horrible dental school experience as well. I was physically assaulted by an instructor my second year. I did not tell anybody because I was too scared of retaliation. I then endured the worst abuse I ever had at the hands of my clinical faculty instructor. The weird thing is that he was really cool to the other students. I tried to lay low and fly under the radar. I prayed quietly that patients wouldn’t say anything nice about me to him since that infuriated him. He threatened my graduation, berated me, and made me feel like nothing. He made me have meetings with him behind closed doors. The weird thing is, he never told me what it was that I actually was doing wrong. When I asked him, he would yell something like “this is what I’m talking about!” He gave me failing grades with no justification, he even once told me that my work is “fine”. He said unprofessional and negative things about me to other students and faculty behind my back, I would later find out. It seemed like it was his mission to discredit me every chance he got. I was terrified to go to school every day because I was scared to face him. I never did quite figure out why it is that he hated me so much. I did the best that I could and I was respectful and humble. I just finished school, and I had a nightmare last night that I was practicing the piano and he was standing over me. I hope I can get over the trauma and move on with my life.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for sharing, Carla. These assholes need to be outed… BY NAME, in my opinion. There is no excuse for what amounts to criminal behavior (in your case). Shit like this pisses me off.

  71. David C says:

    I just found your blog. I graduated from Louisville in 83, and these stories are the same with the names changed. I only had nightmares for about 3-4 years. They were usually about something I forgot to turn in, or lost. I love dentistry and I realize I got a good basic dental education. My peeve as a dental school was only as big as a small high school, that so many instructors cared so little to even know our names. I also have never supported the dental alumni fundraisers. I’ve for years requested to be off their call list. It irritates me most when they get dental students to call, and they tell me it’s better now. I learned a long time ago that I had a form of PTSD, but not to minimize the form vets go through. They even sent a live person this year to my office to solicit funds, and to find out specific issues. After reading this I realize my anger is not alone. I love dentistry, I’ve been through the Pankey institute, and got my AGD fellow and master with a great group of your fellow UT graduates in Nashville and Knoxville. I’ve made myself a good dentist, and an never see my retirement from dentistry until my hands and eyes force me out as I love it so

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for your comments, David. They CLAIM “it’s better now.” First… I don’t believe them. Secondly, it doesn’t matter (even if it is). We got treated like shit. Dog shit. And, it doesn’t matter if the schools are now run by saints. I wouldn’t reward nefarious behavior and deeds then, and I won’t do it now. I don’t suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. 🙂

  72. RD says:

    I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2010, and I can assure you that those were the four worst years of my life – soooo stressful. I felt like my soul had been ripped out of my chest by the time I graduated. My tormentors were in the pros and pedo departments . I’m probably one of those people who feels he has chosen the wrong profession but practicing dentistry is so much less stressful now after practicing for awhile. I certainly did sweat, shed some tears, and bleed – literally for that degree.

  73. RD says:

    I think that hazing/abuse of students is endemic to not just dental education but also medical schools as well. It’s sad that many bright, compassionate students go into these professions to help people but end up cynical and jaded by the end of their training, if they survive it… For some students, the crucible/gauntlet of training is brutal enough to cause them to commit suicide: ie. RIP: Sean Petro, Kevin Dietl, https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/21/depression-suicide-physicians/, Sean O’Rourke http://nypost.com/2014/08/18/nyu-medical-grad-jumps-to-his-death-from-dorm-roof/, Kathryn Stascavage http://gothamist.com/2016/08/19/med_student_suicide.php, and recently a dental student Jiwon Lee http://columbiaspectator.com/news/2014/05/05/missing-dental-student-jiwon-lee-found-dead-hudson-medical-examiner-rules-suicide. I think that’s the dirty little secret of professional education these days. I graduated dental school in 2010, and I still feel like I have PTSD from the experience. Thankfully I didn’t take my own life, but there were plenty of times when I wished I was anywhere but at dental school. I suppose if parents knew what their children were going through in these “institutions of learning” there would be riots and protests in the street… Or at least a call to reform the system of hazing that goes on in these schools. I think of professional/graduate schools as the modern day “Jungle” that Upton Sinclair wrote about when describing the horrid conditions of the meat packing industry in Chicago. These dental schools/medical schools are modern day sausage factories. Everyone likes a sausage, we just don’t want to know how the sausage is made. If I knew how bad it was going to be, I would have honestly rather joined the Marines.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      The medical students I went to school with did not suffer the hazing we (dental students) did. My brother and sister (both MDs) did not, either. Yes… they worked VERY hard… long hours, intense study, etc. But, they didn’t experience the bullshit mind games.

  74. FlyingDDS says:

    Mike, I recently found your informative and entertaining blog and it’s somewhat telling that this dental school thread that started in 2011 is still active with comments. As many have mentioned or intimated the sentiment of OMG “your school experience was as bad as mine”, I’m right with them and have found the comments to be therapeutic if cathartic even. I’m happy to say the bad dreams are gone as I left dentistry 20 years ago after practicing for 10 years, went back to grad school got an MBA and have found my happ(ier) place in aviation.

    I graduated in ’88 from UW. Back then our class had been through a bruising 4 years while the school tried to get itself re-accredited. It had failed its first site visit as it was considered too light on basic science and too heavy on clinic/lab courses (this is the school that at the time still held G.V Black to near godlike status and we had to prove ourselves worthy by doing a perfect class V gold foil on a human patient). The solution was to keep the clinic/lab courses as-is and dump extra basic science classes into the first year curriculum so that we took part 1 of the National Boards in first year and part 2 in second year. The drive for accreditation outweighed any empathy or consideration for the workload on the dental students. The dean for student affairs was also the dean of academic affairs – talk about a conflict of interest…My school had its fair share of arrogant SOBs particularly in restorative and fixed proths, but despite it all, it’s the good profs that I remember and associate with my dental school experience

    I’m told the school has changed and it’s a kinder, gentler place…but I still can’t get my head around donating to the school, and judging by the list of donors in the quarterly alumni magazine I get, very few of my fellow class of ’88 can’t either.

  75. Dr. Robert Rolfes, DDS Marquette dent '68 says:

    I am now 73 yrs old, retired general dentist, a Marquette dental school grad, and I still rue the day I ever went to dental school. I have heard so many stories like that. Even Dr. Gordon Christianson of Utah, said it was the Gestapo Era of dental education. Thank God for the Navy Dental Corps, even if I did have to do a tour in Vietnam. I learned the real way to practice dentistry in the Navy.
    THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CANNOT, TEACH. Nowhere is that more true than dental school.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. And, thank you for your service in Vietnam. Was it sea duty? My ship, the USS Independence served in Vietnam. I was aboard the “Indy” in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield / Storm.

    • Retired Ortho says:

      What brought me to this website? Kismet? Well, Robert Rolfes, you are a ghost from my past! I hope you are well!
      Northwesten Univ Dental School ‘79. Met Robert taking boards in Colorado. Been retired for 7 years. Time has softened my dental school memories. To those going through it now, life does get better once you’re on the outside. Just strive to do your best dentistry, be ethical, and take time to enjoy your life; you’re luckier than most.

  76. Henry K. says:

    I appreciate Reese Lunsford’s comment due to their mentioning patients. I a UT patient, endured condescending remarks from students, repetitively. The idea that you didn’t learn anything should make you consider what damage was done to your victims.
    I was forced to return to the scene due to five dentists insisting that I return to the dentist whose work had failed. Yes, those 80’s instructors still will not return calls. I stopped my visits when I was told my signature was required. The routine signature turned out to be my treatment plan, which doubled in time and money.
    I suppose Peridontal removed an infected implant, which I think should have been saved, before I got wise.
    The only improvement was that the lack of snickering, when the PA would repeat announcing a call for a Dr. Henry Kissinger or such. Making daily fun of an elderly receptionist. Ha!
    As related to me by a mad student…a med student said he was learning to save lives, while dentists learn to save teeth.

  77. KD Schroeder says:

    I have been a patient at the UCLA dental clinic for most of the past year, working with a young woman from India on fixing my teeth. She arrived at UCLA with 10 years of previous dental experience under her belt, so let’s say she was relatively competent. The faculty reviewing her work were impeccably thorough, and she was no slacker herself. But I felt bad for her more than once while she was being quizzed by faculty in front of me: “So how would you classify X?” “I would classify it it as…..” “Really? Because I wouldn’t classify it that way.” The faculty knew their stuff, but the time to test student knowledge on that stuff was not in front of the patient. I needed to feel like my student was competent in order to allow her to do what needed to be done, and she needed to feel competent in order to do it. Having the faculty quiz her and find fault with her in front of me didn’t do either of us any good. It made me start to doubt her, and made her start to second guess herself. It was insulting, and I wish the faculty had understood the consequences of it. Do students require correcting? Absolutely. Do they need to have this done in front of their patients? Absolutely not. It marred our relationship as dentist/ patient. 10 years of previous dental experience, and she still had to doubt herself in front of me. Must have felt good for the faculty, though.

  78. Post Dental School Trauma Victim says:

    I could right a book on the horrific experiences I had in my 3 years of dental school before I was finally railroaded out by the psychopathic dean. I was a target of him from his first day in office after transferring to the school for political reasons. In retrospect I didn’t have a chance in hell of graduating once he took power. He put me through months of Sysiphean tasks to ensure there was no other possible outcome other than my failure and ouster. He lied to my face every step of the way and rallied the other administrators and faculty against me.

    I’m only half joking that I have a kill list with one name on it. There was an incident on campus after I was gone and my parents both called me separately and said they were disappointed that he wasn’t a fatality. My parents are God-fearing great people. They want him dead as bad as I do.

    I still have not recovered and established a new career. I’m still angry and the damage to my livelihood so far as been irrevocable. The main perpetrator once taunted me in a meeting and said “if the committe doesn’t reinstate you you will be very screwed trying to pay back your loans.” It upsets me greatly imagining what this man is doing to select student victims after me. I truly believe he is a clinical psychopath.

    I occasionally meet bright eyed and excited students who are on cloud nine after being accepted into dental school and I feel the pain I know they are going to feel for them.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Holy moly… THREE YEARS IN and then out??

      • Post Dental School Trauma Victim says:

        Yeah I was in my 4th year. Passed all of my boards on the first attempt except the live patient which I never had the opportunity to take. Passed every single course too.

        I failed a few courses along the way and passed the remediations. The system is set up so that a minimum cumulative GPA of a 2.25 had to be maintained. Well the D’s with a 1.00 pulled by GPA down below that and then school policy required that the maximum grade I could achieve was a C for a 2.00. So even if I passed the remediation with an A I was punished with a second ‘failing’ grade below the cut off. I was done with courses so it was mathematically impossible for me to recover!

        The clinic director I was assigned to in my 3rd year was a notorious man hater and incompetent academic lifer who couldn’t stand me. She bragged that I would never graduate under her. The idiot actually got it in writing. The message she wrote was so unbelievable and childlike that the original dean didn’t she wrote it. I showed him charts and we compared the handwriting. His mouth literally dropped when he realized what was happening. Getting permission to switch clinics in the school is unusual and the dean had me in a new clinic by the next day. This all happened right before he was replaced by the pscyhopath.

        I basically got no work done in the semester and a half under the clinic director. Of the 8 patients or so she assigned me, 5 were refugees who where the worst patients ever. I was lucky if they showed up. When they did the clinic director deliberately made sure that i was the last student to be seen. I had to bring in family and friends from the outside to fill my entire schedule. The clinic director would sometimes make them wait in the chair for hours after I had finished to check. It was so embarrasing. And if that wasn’t bad enough she told me I wasn’t allowed to treat my own pateints from the outside anymore and she reassinged their cases to other students! I refused and told them not to come back to the school. This pissed her off even more.

        By the time I was assigned the new clinic director I was so far behind in clinic skills that I looked terrible compared to my classmates who had been busy for 8 months. All I needed was more patient work to catch up. Instead a lifer in perio decided that I needed extra help so he personally monitered every thing I did and slowing me down so bad that I struggled to finish a prophy in the scheduled time.

        Between the sinister vendettas of the dean and clinic director to the misguided actions of the incompetent lifers I was doomed.

        I got lawyers involved and there was nothing they could do against the legal team and administrators of the school. The dean wanted me OUT.

        After a series of minimum wage labor jobs and depression I got accepted into med school. Between graduate school (which was identical to first year of med school) and 3 years of dental school I had done the coursework twice. And I failed a few dental specific courses so I did them twice too. Unfortunately I had to start med school from day 1. I was so bored and burned out I couldn’t do it again. And of course the hardest course gross anatomy was taught by a DENTAL PROFESSOR. It was the hardest and most ridiculous course I have ever taken. Weeded out 10% of the class every year. I tried as hard as I could and failed. Again, defeated by a dental lifer.

        It’s now been 2 years since I was railroaded out of dental school and 5 months since I failed out of med school and I cannot find a decent hourly let alone salary job in the science field or anything resembling one. I feel like a felon. I just paid for breakfast with change I scrounged from my apartment.

        I have a deep understanding of dentistry and I was liked by the few patients I got a chance to treat. They went to bat for me (in vain). I have strongly considered just practicing in the black market without a license so I can make rent.

  79. C B DDS says:

    I just found this website and have enjoyed this post immensely. Best advice I was given prior to starting dental school (age 28, 1998 grad) was get through and graduate without anyone knowing your name. I’ve read repeatedly in previous comments to “fly low” and “under the radar”. I cannot emphasize that enough. I had some great teachers (Baylor) but also some who seemed to be annoyed by everything in life and felt it their duty to spread their inhumane joy. Baylor provided a great education with enough experiences to succeed straight out of school but I made a promise from the day I graduated that I would never give a dime to the school – EVER. There was just enough corruption to leave a deep seeded disgust. My classmates were great – no complaints there at all. I love being a dentist and am ever grateful for the opportunity to do this everyday. Aggravation comes with dental school, but just make sure you have happiness outside of it bc if you don’t you’ll likley be in for a rough four years.

  80. Paul B says:

    The Dean at The UT Memphis dental school was fired recently for nepotism and many corrupt deals and cronyeism. Guess what, the administration took him out of the dental school and put him in the university administration in a tenured post. He sure must have a lot of crap about people higher up in the chain to get this sweet deal.

  81. Zack says:

    Read your post in 2018
    I’m currently train in dental school in Malaysia and I have 2.5 years more to go.
    It’s just a few months into clinical years and I have been scolded stupid multiple times
    Sometimes I really doubt that I’m even shall continue or just drop out
    I feel tired and reluctant to go to class every morning and it makes me sick :<

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  83. Ding says:

    After reading your stories, I do miss my studies in my dental school. Kind of miss the funny moment in school and crazy friends.

  84. Ang says:

    Thanks for sharing. I just started 3rd year dental school and trying to hang in there. It’s really tough and overwhelming as we’re just thrown into clinics full time. Its comforting to know that dental school isn’t just hard for me.

  85. DrCam says:

    My claim to fame was getting a dental school closed down !

    Started dental school in 1987 and graduated on time 4 years later . Funny that the USA experience is identical to what we went through in Australia. Almost all of our professors had done their Masters in the US so perhaps that was it – but I doubt it , I think it’s universal.

    The long termers were the worst – Prof Lewis – removable pros , Dr Owen exodontia and the inimitable Professor Cock ( by name and nature )

    I had always been relatively good with my hands – metal work, tech drawing , woodwork virtually straight A’s at school but it took me time to develop the unique hand skills of dentistry working with such precision. It’s important for students reading this that a) there will always be some students and practitioners that can cut like it’s been done by a machine and not everyone has that ability – clinically acceptable is just that and you shouldn’t feel bad about not being Michelangelo b) sometimes it takes students or practitioners much longer than others to get good – so don’t give up .

    I was avoiding Prof Cock because he was an arsehole and having my work graded by the lovely Dr Mack ( an outsider because he had been educated in the UK- eventually they forced him out ) and subsequently got a conditional pass in first semester , despite him not seeing any of my work .
    Fortunately my friend with a similar grade had his interview first and I could prep .
    I’d gotten in trouble for not shaving ( no patient contact in the sim lab) and as I used to repair my car – motor, brakes etc had some grease undrr my fingernails that I couldn’t get out . Luckily I knew he liked working on cars and he was a protector from then on . I had the stress of him having to grade everything I did from then on and fortunately passed first year .

    My mate dropped an instrument under his desk In the Sim lab just as Cocky walked behind him and his wheeled chair flew back and crushed the Prof against the desk behind . He put his foot on the chair and muttered “ this is what you get if you mess with me !” And rammed my mate into his desk. My friend was built like a truck and I don’t know how he didn’t just turn around and drop him

    Second year we got to start working on kids from the local private girls school and I had to do buccal fissure seals on two lower first molars with Prof Cock breathing down my neck . The die was cast when he got his probe out and “ oh this is good and this one is even BETTER “ despite having somehow made an enemy of Prof Lewis and him wanting to fail me – how do you fail removable pros? – the impression and the set up is right or it’s not . In the meeting to determine if you went through – they put up your photo and it was just pretty much a speculative decision al- according to an endo mate who sat on those meetings Lewis wanted to shaft me and Cocky came to my rescue so I was lucky to be saved by one of the biggest arseholes, almost universally hated – a guy who had failed in private practice twice and who would spend 5 minutes deliberating in clinic as you whether you should have extended you gold inlay prep a mm or two into a stained groove . Hold your enemies close !
    One key element I learned from Cocky was “ Always aim for excellence . If you aim for excellence you may achieve mediocrity . If you aim for mediocrity you’ll fall way short “

    Lewis liked to torture students- we were 19 , soft lilly kids hands and he’d tell us to take brass denture flasks out of hot water with our bare hands and belittle you when you complained .

    If you were female you got an easier ride , there were several girls who slept with some of the older lecturers one girl started dating a 60 year old lecturer – gross !

    Owen the exodontia guy was easily one of the worse and would yell and scream at you in front of the patients and was rough and nasty with the patients . The cheer that went up in the lab when he extracted one of my classmates lower incisors , and got the wrong incisor for ortho was deafening . Also great when he hit 65 and was made to retire ! Also great when he did an upper clearance and it was supposed to be the lower and he had no upper denture to insert , just a lower .
    Schadenfreude and Karma bus hitting all at once

    “ Youre like a bull at a gate “ “ No, No, NO – NOT like that , are you STUPID?”

    To Dr Porra a part timer who told me a few weeks before graduation- you’ll never make it in private practice “ you’re too slow “ Well fuck you Mike I’m still slow after 28 years but I still care about doing a good job .

    The stress to get your requirements was just crazy , and in comparison to other students who had part time jobs and a life outside dental school – doing 38 hours of contact , with then hours and hours in the lab mounting and waxing and finding time for studying . I had 6 of my 10 C and B units on one patient and it had to be into the lab the Friday before our semester break . I had the two upper second premolars impression signed off but had to get lower left first molar with 2 mm sub g margin and 3 unit bridge lower right in one impression . Had multiple attempts and tiny bubbles in critical areas ( in fact any bubble was grounds for a redo even though in clinical practice it doesn’t happen even with specialists provided not on a margin !God I love digital ) . The instructor had one last go and thank the lord it was ok or I was going around for another year .

    One older student explained it to me – Dental school and dentistry – imagine a huge polished metal sphere and you start out at the bottom of the ball and you’re gripping on desperately trying not to fall off . The faculty are sitting up the top yelling abuse and have buckets of shit that they are tipping over the side . You cop a face full of shit and you slip down the ball and rip your fingernails out trying to hold on . You go up and down until eventually you get to the top and they reach down , pull you up ,and then hand you a .. bucket !

    Dentists can be unbelievably cruel to each other – which is ridiculous given we all know how hard it is !

    I definitely suffered sleepless nights, nightmares for years afterwards but haven’t for probably 20 years .

    Oh and how did I get a dental school closed down – quite amusing really as a claim to fame .

    Our school was very old and very small with only 30 students in each year – our year we had 10 students fail first year and 10 join from second year The school was attached to the public dental hospital in our city and very run down . We had a large common room with a pool table , ping pong ,lounges etc.

    We regularly had parties there .

    Your beer funnel was a typical feature

    One evening the festivities were in full swing and my friend and I got up onto the pool table to dance and put our heads through the thin ceiling .

    I was very fortunate that there weren’t many witnesses .

    Two final year students came down on the Monday to find out who did it and made all of us first years attend a meeting . “ Oh, you won’t get in any trouble they just want to know who it was …”

    No one ratted me out thank goodness , because even at that early stage we knew they were assholes and not to be trusted .

    On repairing it they found asbestos and the school had to be closed down eventually . I was on the committee the next year involved in helping to get it moved to a new site at the University- so I cost them a cool $40 million lol The new school is great though – so that’s my contribution to my Alma Mater ! They won’t be getting a cent out of me personally!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Cam! Thanks for the great stories! I think most of us can relate in some way. The end was the best! Had to shut down because your head went through the ceiling! Hilarious.

  86. Len says:

    Just discovered your website as we’re looking into firearms practice at home. Lots of good info here. As far as Dental School is concerned, all I can say as to your descriptions and mindset is DITTO. I graduated from Columbia U. Dental School in the early-70’s.
    Your TORMENTORS description was perfect and I could go on about that for hours.
    Fortunately, I did a residency afterwards in a US Government Facility and then took a few hundred hours of continuing ed to really get proficient. I retired in the mid-1990’s after treating many happy patients. Columbia never got a PENNY from me, though they tried … no reward for the tormentors. If not for the business aspects of the profession, dentistry would have truly been a joy. So, retired now … living well is the best revenge … NOT on my patients, but on the School and their cadre of (mostly) losers. Carpe Diem!

  87. Rachael says:

    This crap is still going on and then some. My husband is going into year 3 and the crap they put up with is enough to make me mad! The dean of the dental school is getting fired…I mean stepping down…because the new clinic that was promised to be done two years ago still isn’t done and no one is donating. Gee wonder why people wouldn’t donate to a school who could care less about their students. I’m hoping for the classes to rise up and take the administration out. Funny thing is is that a lot of the teachers are fed up with the administration too.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Funny (not)…. so many have tried to tell me, “It’s not like that anymore.” Yeah, bullshit.

      It’s now been almost 33 years since I graduated. I STILL wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.

      Which school is your husband attending? I understand if you’d rather not say. 🙂 But, I think these schools need to be called out by name. That’s why I mentioned my school in the article.

  88. Ken says:

    So many many dentists I know and have spoken with through the years have similar stories from schools all across the country and different eras. Look at the responses here now going on like 10 years since this blog was written and similar threads on various dentist forums similarly getting thousands of views and replies with like stories.

    Obviously this is a common problem that has been going on for decades. My question is why and how did this get started? When did this become “the way” to treat and educate future professionals? It makes zero sense yet apparently this is a very common experience amongst dentists across the country? (And even across the world based on replies from some foreign dentists)

    It would be an interesting research project to see how, when, & why this became so commonplace in dental colleges. Does it have its roots in the theory that early on many who couldn’t make it into medical school then chose dental school? Does it have anything to do with the early formation of the ADA??? Is it due to the notion that dental instructors were folks unable to make it in private practice? I don’t know myself if any or all of these ideas and more are true or played a role, but it would be fascinating to know the origins of how this all got started.

    I’ve met so many dentists who share this story including a good friend who was severely depressed and on the verge of suicide after his experiences at dental school.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Another theory is that a lot of dental school instructors were ex-military. And, so that’s why they’re tough. It sounds plausible, right?

      Well… I went into the military right out of dental school (as mentioned in my article). The military was like summer camp for grown-ups compared to dental school! No kidding. They were NICE to me in the military.

      I suspect it’s related to the individual egos and subsequently collective egos of faculty. It’s a power trip. It’s a way for them to attain significance.

      And they wonder why alumni donations are so scarce?!??

      Thanks for your comment!

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