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Dentistry is my passion because, every day, it provides me with the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives, by improving their oral health, lifestyle or even appearance. I also particularly enjoy the constant interaction between dentists and patients, which means there’s never a dull moment. I have been lucky enough to enjoy this profession not only as a student, but also as a registered dental hygienist for almost 8 years now.

I decided to expand my knowledge in this field by further pursuing dentistry so that I could take on more responsibilities, learn extra skills, offer additional treatments to my patients, and who knows, maybe even open my very own practice someday.

I qualified as a hygienist in Italy and worked there for 3 years, before moving to London in 2016. I currently work part-time while studying, so exceptional organisation skills are required to achieve the perfect work-school balance.

Here are my top tips for balancing an intense work and study life:

  • try to keep up with clinical and academic work, as procrastination is your worst enemy
  • keep organised notes and make sure there is a logical sequence while studying
  • ensure you fully understand a topic before archiving it, so that when you go back for revision, major concepts can resurface quickly
  • organise study groups with peers
  • and last but not the least, get enough rest, take time off for self-care and remember to be kind to yourself

Another aspect of dentistry I love, is the flexibility it offers as a profession, the multidisciplinary approach required (e.g. scientific knowledge, manual dexterity, problem-solving, teamwork, photography, communication skills etc.) and the need for continuous professional development, which contributes to personal growth and encourages professionals to realise the best version of themselves.

My favourite dental disciplines so far are endodontics, oral surgery and orthodontics. Despite being three very different disciplines, I appreciate each of them for the specific skills they require. I love endodontics because it demands patience and precision to work within the tiny space of dental pulp chambers. I love oral surgery because it is very satisfying and allows the application of surgical techniques, and I appreciate orthodontics because the end results are extremely rewarding and life-changing for patients.

My hobbies outside dentistry include cooking, reading, exercising and exploring new places and cultures.

Currently, even though the practical side of dentistry has been suspended because of the pandemic, I’ve attended online clinical tutorials and case discussions to keep up to date.

At King’s College London, we have kept up our skills by cutting cavities, doing crown preparations and carrying out various kinds of restorations on phantom heads. In addition, I have also started making educational dental videos and amplifying the dental content on my social media platforms to help promote oral health awareness. I personally think that social media is extremely valuable as it has helped me spread oral health advice on a larger scale while increasing my exposure and visibility.

Lots of people have reached out to me, asking for advice, especially those suffering from dental anxiety who are actually more confident online than in person. Social media has improved my networking immensely, as I have had the opportunity to connect with so many colleagues and reach out to many more people than I would have been able to, face to face. Also, there’s an amazing support from the dental community on social media, meaning that no man is an island, and you can always feel encouraged.

Finally, as a black dental professional and student, I am proud to have contributed to shining a spotlight on the anti-racist black movement by writing an article for Dentistry Magazine concerning the presence of discrimination in the profession. In that piece, I openly shared my professional experiences and suggested possible solutions to promote equality and diversity. Hopefully it will help bring about change.

For the time being, I’m looking forward to returning to my patients, carrying out full dental procedures and enjoying my final year, while making the most of it!

Chinwe Akuonu
Dental Hygienist
BDS5 King’s college London
Instagram: chinwe.55
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