Demonstrating Manual Dexterity

You will be asked to demonstrate evidence of manual dexterity on both the paper application and during your dental school interview. According to the ADEA, manual dexterity is “the ability to use your hands in a skillful, coordinated way to grasp and manipulate objects and demonstrate small, precise movements.” 

Most dental school candidates demonstrate their manual dexterity by playing an instrument, knitting, or making crafts/jewelry. While these are legitimate examples, they are incredibly redundant. Instead, opt for something original that will set you apart from other candidates. In fact, your answer may spark a friendly conversation! Admissions officers are watching to see whether your interview remains formulaic, or develops into an engaging conversation.

My UNIQUE Manual Dexterity Response:

Answer (Part 1): 

Cooking: I have taken cooking classes to fine-tune my knife skills. My family has a running joke about how meticulously I mince ingredients!

Why I chose this example:

  • Applicable to Dentistry: Believe it or not, knife skills directly translate to dentistry! Knife skills are very similar to how you handle a blade during periodontal surgery. As luck would have it, my interviewer happened to be a periodontist! SCORE!
  • Family: It never hurts to mention your family in a positive manner during the interview. Most likely your interviewer is a mother/father/grandmother/grandfather. Plus, it demonstrates that you have a strong support network (which will definitely come in handy during your grueling D1 year)!
  • Attention to Detail: In a light-hearted way, my example demonstrates a “strength camouflaged as a weakness,” perfectionism. Dentistry requires attention to fine detail. I would argue that skilled dentists are total perfectionists!

Answer (Part 2): 

Radiology certificate: I earned my radiology safety certificate at the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry. During the course, I learned how to manipulate and angle a small digital sensor in patients’ mouths. 

Why I chose this example:

  • Applicable to Dentistry: This answer clearly relates to dentistry, particularly radiology. You will have countless labs during your radiology course to ensure perfect angulation of the digital sensor!
  • Compensating for a Deficiency: I was keenly aware that I lacked dental assisting experience. I purposefully mentioned my radiology safety certification to ensure I was a competitive candidate.

What other unique ideas do you have to showcase manual dexterity? Comment below!


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