Clinic Pearls of Wisdom: Laura Rojas

Today’s post is full of #wednesdywisdom from Dr. Laura Rojas. Laura was my classmate at UMSOD and president of our Special Care Dental Association (SCDA). I was fortunate to work closely with Laura, since we were assigned “sister” General Practices (GP’s) within clinic. We even co-therapied patients together! Laura has an extraordinary soothing influence on her patients (she epitomizes cool under pressure). Her genuine care for their wellbeing is evident. Laura is now a general practice resident with Montefiore Medical Center in New York, NY. Her new patients are so lucky to have her; she’s a gem! Keep reading for Laura’s clinical pearls of wisdom (there’s lots)!

If you were a D2 what advice would you have given yourself to better prepare you for clinic? 

Invite a D3 to lunch! Bring your questions and take notes! Some questions you may want to ask: What is the difference between a prophy and perio maintenance? What is an EIT (evaluation of initial therapy) and when is this appointment scheduled? What is an APE (annual perio evaluation) and when is this appointment scheduled? 

Also, be sure to read the syllabus for EACH class. Make sure you know how many points/units/procedures you need each semester and then track your progress! 

What is a trait that you believe is crucial for success in clinic? Why? 

Organization! Be organized with your patients. Make sure that you call them 3 days, 2 days, AND 1 day before their appointment. This may seem like a lot, but I used this strategy with my patients to make sure they didn’t forget about their appointments. Because of this, I had a very low rate of no-shows/cancellations!

If you complete a long/involved procedure, make sure you call the patient the next day to check on them. This not only builds rapport, but it’s also a good opportunity to tell them the next step of the treatment plan and get them excited for their next visit. I like to remind them about the final result too. Something like, “I hope you’re feeling okay. As we discussed yesterday, you can take OTC pain medication, if necessary. If you experience any complications, I am just one call away. Please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here for you. During your next appointment, we will continue along your treatment plan. We are on a good path and making progress towards your stable oral health. I am very excited we have been able to keep some teeth from needing extractions!” Something like that… 

What was your first procedure? What went right? What went wrong? What would you have done differently? What did you learn from it? 

A prophy (like the majority of us)! But, my first real procedure was #5-MO. It went smoothly. One tip (that’s controversial among students): use a dental dam! I know some students think they are a waste of time, but I’ve always used a dental dam. As a result, I truly believe that the restorations I’ve placed will have better bonding and longevity. 

What has been the biggest lesson you learned reflecting back on your time in clinic at UMSOD? 

Enjoy the journey but work hard…really hard. Do not take the easy route. Now is the time for you to learn and make mistakes.

What has been the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome in clinic? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it? 

Reserving Prosth and Treatment Planning chairs! Most of the time, they were already taken, but I constantly checked and waited until another student dropped their chair. I would check very, very frequently! 🙃

How did you best manage the stresses of classes and clinic at the same time? How difficult was this transition for you? 

I never really managed it! I was stressed all the time, but the feeling of being stressed always makes me work harder and makes me feel that I need to do more. So I KINDA learned to enjoy it…

Do you have any insight on how to best have access to chairs and make appointments? If you do, what advice would you give people who are seeking the most efficient way to obtain chairs? 

Keep checking. Chairs get dropped the day before or the day of.

What aspect of clinic did you find to be the most time consuming and how would you recommend a student go about being more efficient? 

Every procedure is time consuming if you are unprepared. Make sure you watch videos or read ahead of time. Set up your chair ahead of time, if possible. Another way to prepare for a specific procedure is to assist a D4 doing the same procedure. The first time I had to do a post and core build-up, I was terrified! But, the day before, in my free time, I checked the clinic schedule to see which D4 was doing a post and core (because they are the experts, right?) and then I assisted her. She walked me through the process, gave me tips, and told me which burs are better. She even explained where to find all the materials I needed. I highly recommend doing this. Not only for post and cores, but for any treatment that you are doing for the first time…even a filling! 

What resources did you use to prepare you for Boards Part II? 

Anki, Mosby, DD, Mental Dental, Tufts Pharm (There is this webpage called that goes through all the Tufts Pharm questions but it has mnemonics for everything- Basic Pharmacology Mnemonics Online Course- Part 1)

What tips worked for you in getting patients to say “yes” to your proposed treatment? 

I like to build rapport with patients first, so they know that your opinion is coming from an honest perspective. Draw for them, make sure they understand. Another thing that helped was to assist patients with applying for the financial discount that the school offers. If they qualify, they get 30% off most treatments. All they need to do is to bring a proof of income of their last 4 weeks of work, so pay stubs or their taxes from last year. During their Treatment Plan Presentation appointment, you can sit down with them and help them fill out the forms. They are more likely to fill out the forms if they do it with you– as opposed to you handing them the forms… they take them home and then forget to fill them out! You only do it once every year for each patient.

For more clinic tips, be sure to check out #wednesdaywidsom from Dr. Kathy Ong. What clinical pearls of wisdom can you pass along? Comment below!


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