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Advice from Alumni: Careers in Dentistry

 

Dentistry, or dental medicine and oral medicine, is a healthcare profession that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the dental cavity. Dental treatments are carried out by a dental team, which often consists of a dentist and dental auxiliaries, such as dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental technicians, and dental therapists.

Photo of Abigale Enrici '18

Abigale “Abby” Enrici ’18

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology, Augsburg University
  • Currently a student at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, studying to be a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) ’23.
  • Women’s Soccer Team, honors program, helped start the pre dental club and also ran as an officer multiple years, summer and semester research opportunities, TA/tutor and AugSem leader.

“I took a gap year and started dental school in August of 2019.  Not many people know this, but dental school is one of the more expensive professional schools to attend. Most students graduate with quite a bit of loans. I am lucky to have the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) Scholarship. I have this scholarship through the US Navy and they pay for my school for all 4 years of dental school, they pay me a monthly stipend of about $2000, and they also reimburse materials such as books and loupes. To pay the Navy back, I will go to Officer Development School (ODS) for 6 weeks either during school or after graduation and then I will be a dentist in the Navy for a minimum of 4 years. I am so excited for this adventure when it comes.”

Why did you choose dentistry as your field of study?

“At a pretty young age I knew I wanted to go into the medical field. I was one of the lucky few that knew what they wanted to do “when they grew up”. Going to get physicals as a child or visiting the ER occasionally either for my sisters or myself, I didn’t think that was something I wanted to do. When I was in 7th grade I got braces put on and didn’t get them taken off until my sophomore year of high school. Going to the orthodontist office was an amazing experience and it truly made me happy (sounds so cheesy). Even going to the dentist as a child I really enjoyed going because they would take polaroid pictures of my sisters and I after our cleaning and hang it on the wall and we could pick something from the treasure box. Given I have never had a cavity, I did not need much dental work as a child, so that probably played into why I could have had a good experience. Anyways, I will stop ranting, basically I was very interested in dentistry after braces and the more I started to look into and shadow doctors, the more interested and fascinated I became. It’s a profession where it has the flexibility of owning your own practice or going to work for someone else. It has nice hours where I can have a family in the future and enjoy time with them, I get to work with my hands, it’s very detail oriented and it’s an art form. There is also a huge creative aspect of dentistry and that is something I have really come to love as well”

 

What experiences at Augsburg helped you make that decision?

“Catherina Kipper! But in all seriousness, I knew I wanted to go to dental school before I met Catherina, however she really helped point me in the right direction of different opportunities that really solidified that I wanted to go into dentistry. I also had some experiences that helped me know what I didn’t want to do. For example I was a personal care assistant for a summer, and this may be one of the most emotional and physical tolling jobs I have done and I will forever praise the people that do this work because it is NOT easy, but I knew it was not for me. I also had many research experiences, which with research you really need to celebrate the small victories, because you don’t always get big victories. This has also taught me to do this in dental school because like everything else we have good days and bad days, but dental school is not easy and celebrating those small victories really help prevent burnout in my opinion. However, I know now that research is also not really my forte.”

 

How did you choose the dental programs you applied to? What were you looking for?

“I chose the dental programs I applied to mostly based on location. I applied to places that I wanted to live or could see myself living. The school’s prerequisites were also a factor of where I applied. For example, I did not take gross anatomy, so I did not apply to the dental schools that required gross anatomy as a pre-req. I applied to 7 schools and interviewed at 3 and was accepted to 2. Minnesota and Chicago. At the time I had applied as an Illinois resident so if I did not have the Navy scholarship I would have maybe gone to Chicago to get in-state tuition, but since I did not have to really worry about tuition I picked MN because I like the state of MN better. I also then applied for residency in MN and am receiving in-state tuition here now too.”

 

What did you appreciate most about your academic experiences?

“SMALL CLASS SIZES! I really missed this part once I started dental school. Our dental school class size is now about 120 people. When we first started out, one of the most frustrating experiences was when the professor would come into the lecture hall ready to lecture and would begin to speak and other students would continue to talk to the point you could not hear the professor. I had never experienced this before at Augsburg because with maybe 30 people in a class it was never this loud or overwhelming. At Augsburg, it was also very nice to have professors know you by name and to have things be a little more personable. Even though we do not have lectures with 600 people in dental school, 120 people is still a lot so most professors did not learn our names. Now this is becoming a little different as I start in the clinic, our color groups (smaller groups of about 20-30 students) and the faculty members in our color groups are beginning to learn our names.”

 

What advice would you give to prospective dental students?

“Oh boy, I know this is easy to say now because I am here, but enjoy your time in undergrad. And if you take any gap year(s), enjoy your time then as well! I know things seem busy now and stressful, but honestly things only get busier. So try to enjoy the free time you have now and try not to stress too much. Also, not trying to scare anyone away from dentistry/dental school, but burnout is real! Before going to dental school make sure it is something you really want to do and remember why, because there will be days that you second guess yourself and bring yourself down, but just remember that reason of why you are doing it to reground and motivate yourself to keep moving! Becoming a dentist in the end is so worth it and you can do it if you really want to, I believe in you!”