“NUS Dentistry is an incredibly oppressive place to be in,” writes a Redditor sometime in August 2020, and proceeds to outline the reasons, which mainly include patient procurement and the issue of oppressive hierarchy in a Reddit thread. The viral thread received over 180 responses, mostly from other students who agreed with the OP (original poster) and elaborated on their own experiences.
Find your own patient or retain a year
One of the biggest issues that was discussed in the thread was about the fact that the bulk of the students’ patients for fillings, root canal therapy, gum disease, dentures, crowns and even surgical extractions have to be sourced by the students themselves. This is not the case in Dentistry schools overseas which procure patients for their students to help with their training.
What happens if students can’t find patients? According to the OP, “if you have no patients, you simply get retained, each year of school fee is about S$100,000 (S$29,000 subsidised), and each year of lost opportunity cost in terms of starting income comes up to about S$60,000.” It’s like losing S$90,000 simply because you couldn’t find enough patients to work on.
Another Redditor, 1985fartingsquirrels has heard of horror stories from NUS Dentistry friends who have not been able to graduate “because their patients suddenly opted out of continuing their treatment and they were unable complete the final step of giving the patient their crowns or dentures that were already made”.
These are students in their final 2 years, so instead of focusing on their studies, a large portion of their time is spent finding patients/participants and arranging clinic slots.
To make matters worse, students are apparently discouraged from finding patients via social media (according to Redditor SerendipityFlag, promoting on social media will result in disciplinary action). So students are encouraged sourcing patients through “word of mouth.”
Hierarchy and abuse of power
Another big issue pertains to an abuse of power. The OP has stated that tensions exist within the entire department, from staff to students. Apparently, there’s also a hierarchy of abuse, where you have faculty belittling students, and dental nurses ill-treating janitors.
According to the OP, “Even if you’re right, you’re wrong as long as your opinion clashes with someone who is more senior than you.” This has resulted in some students being retained a year as punishment. The scary part, according to the OP, is that when “the assessor likes, you get a pass, but if the assessor does not like it, you fail.” Many commentors on the thread have also questioned the methodology behind the assessments.
Redditor and fellow grad, disappointedinme88, remarked about the outdated syllabus due to the fact that only a select few run the show, even though the NUS Dentistry department has hired dynamic individuals from renowned schools in the UK and USA to bring fresh perspective.
“Dynamic lecturers from USA are abused and silenced into submission,” according to the post. “When they’re here, they identify lapses in our system. They come up with suggestions on how to improve it. However, their initiatives are shot down and not given a second thought.”
Student well-being nonexistent
Most grads and current students seem to also agree on the fact that there’s poor student treatment. “Even dentists in their later years remember the days of being tortured in school by nasty individuals,” according to the OP.
Current student, Radiant_Double_116, mentions that they’ve “probably cried and broke down more times in the past 2 clinical years than in (their) entire life” due to the anxiety. According to Redditor pandoras_potato: “Dental school ruined my mental health” because of numerous factors, from the “anxiety of having to secure clinical sessions” to “the despair when your patients cancel”.
There was also a strange issue highlighted across the board: assessors deciding on having Tea Break in the middle of the clinical session.
Not all doom and gloom
Despite the fact that all commentors agreed with the OP about the situation at Dentistry school, not everyone felt oppressed or angry. Redditors bashclashmashsash and Anywho85 found that their experience during their time as students was generally enjoyable.
While the Dentistry department does seem to have a pressure cooker situation, it’s by far not the only faculty where students are highly stressed. You’ll see overworked students in faculties like Law and Architecture too.