Studying Bachelor of Dental Surgery at AIMST University

I know my blog pops up on the first page of google when people search for AIMST Dentistry or whatever derivation of it. As I am the first batch of dental students at my university, I used to frequently blog about what I’ve done so far in my university. It began to slow down somewhere towards the end of my third year as restrictions on photography were carried out. LOL it was more like a rule for only me as I always HAD to take a photo of everything I did. I even wrote a letter to my dean asking for the rule to be lifted but he nicely told me about ethics since we were to start working in the clinics soon. I respected that and have since put my camera aside for only fun stuff.

As time goes by, we have started working on real patients and haven’t had much time to breathe, let alone to update about what has been going on in the school of dentistry. As a final year dental student with almost 8 more months to go, I think I am fit to write in further detail. My last detailed write up was in Year 1. I wanted to write one after I completed every year but I just didn’t find the energy to.

This is not a very good write up as it was actually a reply to someone who was asking some questions at the lowyat forums. So here we go:

Getting Into AIMST’s Bachelor of Dental Surgery Programme

I remember I was asked to use my actual pre-u results to apply for the course and the process was super stressful because I was away at National Service and had to rely on my parents to do everything. What I can remember is that your forecast results will not be of any use. As for min. requirements, please check the AIMST’s Faculty of Dentistry website for updated information. Old ladies like me might not really remember exactly what the requirements were.

In recent times, AIMST Dentistry has opened their doors to JPA scholarship holders. Back when it was still new, there were many more seats available and there’s only about five foundation students in my class. Most of us are from STPM, A-levels, SAM and various other foundation programmes ie. CIMP, Uni of Otago Foundation… etc.

But no harm trying if you meet the min. requirements on the website! But keep in mind that priorities are given to AIMST foundation students. So if you are fresh out of form5, it’s best if you take the foundation course at AIMST if you are definitely sure about studying dentistry at AIMST.  As it is, there are plenty of students in the foundation course itself fighting for spots in the degree programmes at AIMST. The hottest course is obviously the MBBS course.

The recent addition of JPA scholarships for AIMST’s dentistry course might be good news to some of you but to those of you, who are like me, not very smart, might be happy to know that up to RM100k in PTPTN loans can be available for you as long as you meet the requirements. (poor enough, results okay enough. Can you get into college with your SPM qualifications? Then should be good enough to get PTPTN.) It’s a loan that allows you up to 20 years to repay and has a 3% interest rate.

From the time I first entered, AIMST now allocate more seats to their foundation students and don’t forget that you’ll have to contend with JPA scholars as well. We first started off with about 50 seats but back then, only 41 seats were filled up. With some quitting midway to study medicine and some having to repeat a year or two, we were left with 37 students who thankfully have been together for the last four years.

Academic wise, we have mostly foreign lecturers who conduct the lessons and most of these lecturers have travelled across the globe to various universities. We have a physiology lecturer who wrote our textbook and has been to plenty of countries working as a lecturer. Local lecturers are few though. That’s for the medical faculty who used to conduct our medical subjects even though we were in the school of dentistry.

As for the school of dentistry, we also have plenty of foreign lecturers who are mostly specialists and have been extremely patient in imparting their wisdom to us noobs in the dental clinics. *suck up suck up* We have had visiting lecturers from the UK for the dentistry subjects in Year 1 and Year2 and our hospital director (who also doubles up as our Dental Public Health lecturer) who was once the director of the ministry of oral health division. She has helped a lot with assimilating our syllabus, making sure we are inline with the requirements of the accreditation board and the malaysian dental council.


Facilities At The School of Dentistry

If you are a new student at AIMST, then chances are you’ll be stuck staying in the hostels. Most of the seniors have left and gone to stay in nearby housing areas where the rent is so much cheaper.

But this bit of my post is about the facilities that we have at the school of dentistry.


I can’t find a clearer photo but this is the most recent picture I have of the entire dental building. It was taken from the admin building on the AIMST 2009 Convocation Day which explains the canopies below.

We have a simulation lab, dental technology lab, radiology department, one main polyclinic, another polyclinic for padiatric dentistry and orthodontic patients, various briefing rooms, two lecture halls that can accommodate roughly two hundred students each, oral surgery department, a reception polyclinic, locker rooms for the clinical students and a common room for the clinical students to faster faster go chup sofa to take afternoon nap.(I can usually be found fast asleep at 12-1.15pm everyday in the common room with my own blanket on one of the sofas. Don’t disturb me or I will bite.) My biggest competitors are Maxis and Poh Yee or any of the boys from 5.3.


Trying to kick CY out of my favourite sofa.


In the simulation lab, we have simulators for us to practice various procedures on. Year 2 students will spend most of their time there during practical sessions. It comes equipped with LCD screens for every seat as most procedures are explained using audiovisual equipments.


As for the dental technology lab, it is divided into a bigger one and a smaller one.


For the bigger dental tech lab, the students learn the basics of denture making, orthodontic wire bending and the likes there.


In the smaller dental tech lab, alongside a couple of permanent dental technicians, clinical students spend their free time completing dentures for their patients. We have come a long way now compared to almost four years ago where we didn’t even have our own centralized gas supply. Back in the good old days, the pioneer students shared a stove among themselves to melt wax for our denture making lessons.

In the radiology department, new patients are sent there to get diagnostic x-rays taken.

As for the polyclinics, there are 36 bays there and each bay is fully equipped with a dental chair and its supporting equipments. So at any given time of the week, groups of clinical students (Year 3 to Year 5) can be found working on their patients under the supervision of the clinical lecturers.

Here’s a photo I managed when I sneaked into the unfinished dental hospital late 2007:


A far cry from the skeletal version I saw! Each bay is occupied by an operator and a dental surgery assistant (could be a student, could be a DSA hired by the school as well.) and instruments are taken from a dispensary within the polyclinic. After each patient, the entire area is cleaned up and disinfected by the DSA.


For the orthodontic and paediatric dentistry polyclinic, the bays are fewer but it is appropriately decorated to make the paediatric patients feel at ease when they come in for their treatments.


The equipments are exactly the same as the ones found in the polyclinics.


We even have an oral hygiene instruction room where we educate the children about proper toothbrushing techniques.

In the oral surgery department, extractions and minor oral surgery procedures are done there. Most of the time our oral surgeon is there doing the more complicated procedures but he will supervise students who are carrying out normal extractions and other minor oral surgery procedures.


The locker rooms for the clinical students are for us to stash our scrubs overnight and our bags when we go into the clinics during the day. It was also an unwritten rule among us that all umbrellas are to be placed at the top of our lockers. Very pretty too!


As you can see, I wasted no time in personalizing mine. It was also a marketing gimmick for The Sticker Monster. Not to my own dental coursemates lah, but to be used as something to entice my customers on the sticker blog. I’ll remove the stickers when I graduate, or if any junior wants to take over my locker because of the stickers, LET ME KNOW! 😀 I’ll even throw a few stickers into the locker so you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 😀

As for the common room, it is fully utilized by the dental students. Actually it reminds me a little bit of my ant farm when I was young. You know the kind that you purchase from Toys ‘R Us. You put some sand inside, a bit of sugar, and wait for the ants to come in and build their home? Same thing happened with the common room.


The school made a room specially for us to chill out in between clinics/classes, and we’ve gone in and studied/munched on snacks/slept/gossiped and so much more!


Kelvin, one of my juniors from Batch 2, had this hilarious idea to do up the entire place. He even drew an artist’s impression of it. Kelvin, if you want me to remove this pic, let me know alright?

The temperature in the common room is by far the most comfortable. The most uncomfortable aircondition temperature is the corridor between the dental technology lab and the simulation lab. I’m pretty sure I once saw icicles formed on the glass panels along that corridor.

The main function of the reception polyclinic is to assess new patients and to assign them to Year 3, Year 4 or Year 5 clinical students appropriately.

 

What you can expect in Year 1:

The basic sciences like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and very very basic dentistry. You’ll learn the anatomy of each and every tooth and you’ll be dealing with cadavers, focusing more on the head and neck region.


We have 10 cadavers the last time I checked (this was about 2 years ago?) in 2 tubs of formalin, fished out anytime an anatomy class was conducted. We even have names for the cadavers whom we affectionately call Stinky, Smelly and Yucky. With all due respect.

As for dentistry, you will have a group project somewhere in the middle of the first year on the public oral health services in Malaysia. We had to gather information regarding all the dental services around the country – army sector, dental clinics at schools etc etc. We made posters and they were up in the library as an exhibition. Our group walked away with second best poster I remember. Special mention, apparently. Till this day, I don’t know what my deputy dean meant by special mention.

For the practical aspect, we were started off with simple lessons in tooth carving and dental plaster manipulation. This was actually done early in the second year. As the first batch, plenty of kinks were still being ironed out (ie. some equipments were not ready yet). These practical classes are now carried out in year 1.

 

In your second year:

This is when things get heated up. Your subjects built up and you’ll get deeper into dentistry as we are then introduced to conservative dentistry (where you learn about dental caries, restorations and the likes), prosthodontics (learning how to make complete and partial dentures), dental materials, periodontology (the tartar/calculus between your teeth, scaling etc) ..and other more detailed stuff like oral anatomy (learn about the microstructure of the tooth and its surrounding tissues) and oral biochemistry (How your teeth functions, how your mouth functions…. functions and processes in the oral cavity, basically).


It’s also a very exciting year because you are finally able to enter the simulation labs and you will be learning how to make cavity preparations and do restorations on fake teeth or even real teeth (which we have to set in a plaster of paris jaw) which you have collected from dental clinics. You can finally touch the metal instruments which used to look really scary at any dental clinic. You will also learn how to make a complete denture and a partial denture.


You will learn all the basic clinical skills like restorations and scalings. Because of your denture lessons, you will be spending almost two afternoons a week in the dental tech lab. It is fun because the dental technology lecturers are really nice and the environment is really relaxed unlike a classroom or a simulation lab where you will get chided if your cavity is too big.

Second year is known to be a an extremely tedious year because there are plenty of medical and dental subjects to study. Most scary is pharmacology. You’ll feel angry because you didn’t want to be a doctor and feel like throwing away all the bloody medical subjects (pathology, microbiology, pharmacology) notes. I had like notes that reached up to my thighs okay. Studying for the final exam in second year was pure torture. Possibly the worst exams I ever had to sit for. SPM comes a close second. Throughout A-levels I was like, “wats happening..”. So was quite numb towards exams. Just surprised I didn’t fail. To this day I don’t know how I got through A-levels maths.

Aside from the medical and dentistry subjects, some humanities subjects are thrown in such as Communications and Social and Behavioural Sciences. If I’m not mistaken I had to study something to do with religion. This was not the stupid university papers we had to sit for (philosophy, psychology, critical thinking and three classes of english for general, specific and academic purposes) but actual subjects to pass dentistry. I absolutely loathed having to study for those subjects. Humanities were never my forte. They were all so vague!

 

in third year:

Your hours slow down a little. I would say it is almost a drastic change from year 2. At first my batch and the batch below me thought that the relaxed year was only for my batch since the dental hospital has yet to be ready at that time but it seems that the hours were almost as short for the second batch, and as we have recently heard, for the third batch as well.

In the first half of the year, you still have those dreaded medical subjects (medicine and surgery), but these will cease towards the second term. We get posted to nearby hospitals to observe how to clerk patients, learn to use the sphygmomanometer (take blood pressure) and basically do ward rounds. Super sien. I didn’t want to be a doctor! *struggles*

In third year, you will enter the clinics and start having patients of your own. You will start to formulate treatment plans and make diagnosis. You will then be treating these patients and it is up to you to arrange them according to your allocated sessions. (we started off with 2 sessions a week).

Your dental subjects will still be on-going. Second year subjects are studied in further detail and on top of that you now have dental public health (super dreaded subject), endodontics (root canal treatments), oral radiology, pain control and more. You will still have sessions in the simulation lab where you will start learning more detailed clinical techniques such as root canal treatments on the various teeth.

We were slowly weaned off the simulators and began taking each others’ medical and dental history in the clinics. This was before we were assigned patients. We also had to inject local anesthesia into each other during our local anesthesia practical classes. One of my classmates left the needle hanging at the back of my mouth next to my lower wisdom tooth (this was for an inferior alvenolar nerve block) because he panicked half way and returned it to my teacher. Oh my days. But thank god I was thoroughly numbed. Good times.

I just remember it was a damn relaxing year. Also because we were the first batch, so our dental hospital was not ready yet. Yes, we have our very own dental hospital which is also our dental school.

 

In fourth year:

Classes become so few that sometimes you even forget to go for class. Just kidding. 😛 This is because clinics will take up most of our time. At our peak, we had up to four sessions a week. Each session is from 9am to 12pm or 2pm to 5pm. The faster ones among us can fit in two patients. We also have four other sessions where we function as dental surgery assistants to our classmates whose groups have a session during that particular time frame.

But in the last couple of months, AIMST have started a training course for dental surgery assistants so we will have less to do and have more time and energy to focus on treating patients.

It is in this year that we are finally free of all medical subjects. We are introduced to oral surgery (extractions etc etc), paediatric dentistry, advanced cons (veneers, crowns etc). Classes are almost once or twice a week.


Somewhere in the middle of the year, under the oral public health subject, we were divided into nine groups of four to learn about the dental public sector at various parts of the country.


We travelled to Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu (i managed to visit Tasik Kenyir!), Kelantan, Johor and Perak. The more modern states were left out.


We had to do a presentation and report on what we learned etc.

 

In fifth and final year:

As for now, we have completed a compulsory oral health education visit to various kindergartens around the Sungai Petani district.


We went to these kindergartens to have some fun and to teach the kids there about good oral hygiene and at the same time, to woo them into the clinics for our paedo sessions.

We also completed a week in the oral surgery department (which is also located within our dental hospital) and there will be many more to come according to our new timetable.

We will also be going into hospitals in Sungai Petani and Alor Setar to observe their oral surgery departments and see actual procedures in operating theaters.

In year 5, we still have lectures on orthodontics, oral medicine, advanced conservative dentistry, oral surgery, dental public health, periodontology and almost all the important subjects relating to dentistry.

As for every other week, clinical sessions are going on as usual.

Since I’m only in the first half of my final year, I’ll continue to post it up here when new developments take place.


Assignments and Exams

I would say that the course is more exams orientated in your first two years with three module exams and a final exam at the end of your academic year. One year is divided into four modules with each module being approximately 3 months long.

If you fail a portion of your final exams, you will be given a chance to resit the papers sometime in August. But if you fail that as well, you would have to repeat your academic year. You are only allowed to repeat twice. This means if you fail Year 1, repeat Year 1, and say you pass it the consequent year, go on to year 2, fail it that year, then repeating year 2 is your final chance to repeat any academic year.

As for assignments, they may be few but they do contribute to your final exam results. As for those of us who are already in the clinics, our work in the clinics are being taken into consideration as well for the final results.

In the first two years, Problem Based Learning sessions are held at the end of every module. In PBL sessions, some materials such as a scenario, some diagnostic records and etc are given to the students to analyze the patients’ problems.

We were so happy when there were no more PBL sessions in the third year and fourth year. We spoke too soon because in the fifth year, we started having Orthodontic, Oral Medicine and Paediatric Dentistry seminars where it was basically PBL sessions all over again. This time subject specific too. 🙁

 

 

AIMST Dental Hospital

At AIMST, we have our very own dental hospital which is opened to anyone and everyone. Expectedly, most of our patients come from the surrounding villages. We have some who come from as far as Penang and Alor Star but these patients find it difficult to fit into our schedule as well. Treatment is free. We are extremely grateful to all the patients who have come so far to the AIMST Dental Hospital as we have been provided with opportunities to learn about a large variety of cases and also to fulfill our quota.

New patients would usually register at the reception and will be brought up to the reception polyclinic where one of our dental officers will do a thorough examination and decide which cases are appropriate for Year 3, Year 4 or Year 5 patients. The patients are placed on a waiting list and when the students need new patients, they will go down to the reception and deal with the admin there to get a new case.

The student will then personally make phone calls to these patients and slot them into their schedules. From here on, the patient is assigned to a particular student and the student needs to be responsible for the patient’s treatments and scheduling.


This is what we wear in the clinics.

We even have a write-up in The Star! Link!

 

AIMST Dental Students’ Association

In 2007, the AIMST Dental Students’ Association was founded and the first event we had was the Annual AIMST Dental Dinner. The third one is taking place on the 12th of December this year and so far, it has been a grand event that all dental students look forward to. Who wouldn’t like the chance to just go all out and dress up?


Dressed to the nines at the 2nd Annual AIMST Dental Dinner in 2008.


ADSALympics is also another event established by the association and the first ADSALympics was in 2008 where dental students from all the batches congregated together to battle it out at the sports arena in various sporting events.


Cheerleaders from the third batch who stayed enthusiastic throughout the entire week of games.


We even have our own t-shirt too! But I think a new one will be coming up soon enough.

Another two aimst dental traditions are the Mid Autumn Festival Celebrations and the Juniors’ Orientation.


The juniors’ orientation was initially done by the first batch of medical students who conducted it when the pioneer batch first entered dentistry in 2005. We then took on the task when the second intake came in! Now, the ADSA committee have taken charge of it entirely but it is usually the second and third years who are in charge of the games.


As for the Mid Autumn Festival Celebrations, it was the initiative of the third batch though the seniors have had their own mid autumn festival gatherings before that. Because of the third batch, all dental students come together every year at the clock tower-cafeteria area to play with lanterns.


This year, thanks to the efforts of the ADSA committee, a bazaar was held in conjunction with the celebrations and like every year, Kong Ming lanterns are released and it was a grand success this year as other students from the university were invited to partake in the celebrations as well!


Taken during our AGM where we elect the new committee.


The 08/09 ADSA committee during one of our weekly meetings. But seeing how tense everyone looked, this was probably near one of the events.

I think I covered almost all aspects of the school. 🙂 Should anybody have anymore questions, feel free to ask me. (Sorry I cannot help you with admissions.)

For the lecturers who are worried about the pictures or information here, please feel free to let me know if there is anything I should amend!