Sabaa F. Akintola
400L, Dentistry & Dental Surgery
University of Ibadan
Stories are many things. They are places, they are people and they are moments. Some tell tall tales and others speak reality. This here is me in a log of my first steps into dentistry and dental surgery.
Right from secondary school, I had always known—agreed within myself—that I was going to study medicine, but about the time I was filling my JAMB form, I decided to go with dentistry.
You see, I had a cousin in medical school who gave me all the gist and filled me in on the fine details of life as a medical student. I knew about the autopsies, the late-night calls, the pimping on ward rounds and the almighty professional exams. I knew that dental students wrote six of such exams while their counterparts studying medicine and surgery took four. That gave me some pause back then but I decided it was a rather small price to pay for the kind of life I wanted after medical school.
I had discovered, in the course of my research, that dentists do not do late calls—the typical workday closes by 5 pm at the latest—or weekend calls, the exceptions being the oral and maxillofacial surgeons. They get to have some quality time with their families or at least have the option of doing so and even venture into something else if they wanted to. I thought that was a life worth enduring some difficulty for.
Now, I am not going to lie that I am not a little bit attracted to medicine. In fact, I am attracted a lot. As a dental student in the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, you are expected to rotate through the departments of medicine (twice), general surgery, surgery specialities, paediatrics, radiology, as well as pathology and pharmacology, before moving to dental school for the actual dental training you signed up for.
During my rotations, I developed a profound love for cardiology. I was assigned to the unit during my first medicine posting and I was almost sure that if I was studying medicine and surgery, I would have been a cardiologist. I was fascinated by the different conditions, ECG readings made sense to me and I knew their drugs and corresponding mechanisms of action by heart—it was all just so beautiful.
Then I rotated through the surgery department and even got to assist in some surgeries. The adrenaline rush! I concluded then that surgery would have been in close competition with cardiology but for one thing—my inability to, for medical reasons, stand for so long.
I probably would have fantasized about obstetrics and gynaecology also, but that is one of the units that dental students do not have to spend time in. Nevertheless, I got a taste of O&G during my time in the anaesthesia department. We administered spinal anaesthesia to women about to have caesarean sections and it was a wonderful feeling seeing a baby take its first breath of life.
And then, there was the accident and emergency unit. I enjoyed carrying out routine tests and procedures while joining doctors on call, and in time, I became really good at them. The house officers I worked with—both at the emergency and on the wards—came to trust me with simple things like citing lines, giving IV drugs, taking blood samples, performing rapid tests for malaria and so on.
These ‘side’ attractions proved tempting enough because, at some point, I contemplated coming back for the MBBS program, not minding the extra years it would incur. However, the thoughts following that were along the lines of “naaaah, I’m not made for stress. I still want that chill life I dreamed of”.
I’m about to resume my fifth year in dental school. I have written two professional exams already and am preparing for the third one. Although I’m yet to decide what part of dentistry to specialise in, so far, everything has been going according to plan, save for the fact that I’m now a dental freak who looks at your teeth before your face.