What to Expect During D4 Year

You’ve blinked and now you’re a D4! What a wild ride, right? Well, you still have some last-minute requirements to fulfill before donning your cap and gown! See below for a sample course list and interview of Amanda, a dentist who just completed her D4 year! She shares some great advice to ensure success as you complete your dental education.

Sample Course List

Was D4 what you expected?

NOT AT ALL! I underestimated how pressed I’d be for time to complete all my competencies and graduation requirements. They sneak up on you! Plus, I didn’t take into account the time necessary for any laboratory remakes. I guess you should always have contingency plans in place!

What did a typical day look like during the Fall Semester?

The best aspect of D4 is that you no longer need to focus on classes! However, during the fall semester, I focused my spare time on studying for the written boards (NBDE Part 2). A typical day consisted of: wake up at 6:30 AM, leave the house at 7 AM, arrive to school by 8 AM, set-up chair/complete any last minute lab work between 8 AM and 9 AM, first patient at 9 AM, lunch at 12 PM, second patient at 1 PM, leave school at 4 PM, arrive home by 5 PM, dinner, study for boards.

What did a typical day look like during the Spring Semester?

My schedule in the spring looked similar to my fall schedule, except I no longer needed to study for boards (NBDE Part 2). Additionally, I was scheduled to complete a 2-week externship at a local Catholic Charities dental clinic. However, my spring semester (and externship) was cut short due to COVID-19.

What can a rising D4 do to be successful?

A lot of your success during D4 year relies on working hard during D3 year! It’s a snowball effect. The more outstanding requirements you have left, the more difficult your final year will be. 

It’s important to build relationships early on with graduating seniors, so they will transfer their patient cases to you. You should begin the year with a clear outline of how you will fulfill each outstanding requirement. Go through your patient rolodex to make sure you have patients that fulfill each outstanding requirement. If you are missing something, be sure to reach out to faculty, residents, and colleagues ASAP.

Speaking with post-grad residents (especially endo residents) is often overlooked. However, it’s a great strategy for finding patients who need crowns (which is oftentimes a tough requirement to fulfill). 

What can a D4 do to set themselves apart from their classmates?

Hustle right out the gate! Faculty will notice that you are putting forth extra effort to complete your requirements, and will be more willing to help you fulfill any last-minute deficiencies.

If your school offers a clerkship program, definitely participate in one that interests you! I was an implant clerk. This clerkship provided extra experience in restoring implants. We even had Straumann and Nobel reps visit the school. They guided us through a hands-on workshop, where we placed implants in plastic jaws! This has been something that I have highlighted in job interviews.

If you plan to begin working right after graduation, begin asking faculty if they know of anyone hiring. One of my faculty members gave me the contact information for a local dentist who was searching for an associate!

Looking back on your year, is there anything that you would have done differently?

I would have hustled harder for fixed (crowns) from day one!

Do you have any additional advice for D4’s?

Success during your final year requires a shift in thinking. As a D3, your primary focus was getting patients in your chair (i.e., increasing your patient encounters, regardless of the treatment). During D4, you must be more strategic with your time. Your focus should shift from patient encounters to fulfilling graduation requirements. Patients who solely need recall appointments should be transferred to a junior or the hygiene department.

If you are transitioning directly into work (e.g., an associate position), don’t start looking for a job too soon. I began job-hunting way too early, which was a waste of my time. You won’t obtain your license until a couple months after graduation. If you find your dream job in the fall, for example, they may not be able to wait to hire you!

Dr. Amaro’s D4 year:

What advice do you have for D4’s? Comment below!


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