Welcome to Dental Dish, a blog that dishes out advice for dental school success. Dental Dish offers candid advice from dozens of D1-D4 dental students.
I’m Dr. Amaro, the founder of Dental Dish. I was fortunate to have mentors who propelled me toward the career of my dreams. In turn, I hope to be a source of inspiration to you. I believe it “takes a village” to thrive in dental school. I hope to be a small part of your village as you work toward becoming a gifted dentist. I won’t sugar coat it: dental school is four grueling years of constant stress. You will inevitably face obstacles, fierce competition, and self-doubt. Most days will feel frantic. Yet in the end, you will be rewarded with a life-changing career.
It is entirely possible to be EXTREMELY successful in dental school without an Ivy League education, 4.0 GPA, or family legacy. Heck, I didn’t take my first biology class until age 26! Despite a late start, I graduated in the top 10% of my dental class, earning over $30,000 in scholarship awards along the way. Now, it’s time to pay it forward! I would be honored to guide you towards similar achievement. But first, I’m sure you’d like to hear my story — I’ll make it brief.
As a non-traditional student, my path to a career in dentistry was full of unique life-experiences. Between 2009-2013, I taught 10th and 11th grade history at a low-income high school in California. Most of my students were English Language Learners and 80% received free meals. To better connect with families, I fine-tuned my Spanish and assumed leadership roles in the community. I served as the department chair, athletic coach, and home-hospital tutor. Despite my success in the education field, I privately found my career unfulfilling. I pursued teaching because I wanted to make a difference. Instead, I found myself being pressured to tailor my instruction to high-stakes standardized tests. Although my students’ scores improved, this was not the level of change I sought to affect.
Discontent with teaching, I began contemplating a career-change. Getting married in 2012 was the catalyst for pursuing a new career because it allowed me to reevaluate my family and career goals. As I weighed my options, I was initially attracted to healthcare. Like education, this field seemed compatible with my desire to serve the community. I specifically chose to explore a career in dentistry because I found the precise intricacies of dental work and its attention to detail appealing.
I began my career exploration by shadowing at the Fresno Veterans Affairs Hospital dental clinic. This was a transformative experience because until this point, I had never met a female dentist. After shadowing two female dentists at the VA, I could finally envision myself entering the profession. My time at the VA also expanded my understanding of dentistry. While initially attracted to dentistry’s precision and attention to detail, observing at the VA amongst battle wounds and PTSD revealed that oral health is inextricably tied to overall wellbeing.
I continued my career exploration by volunteering with San Francisco Project Homeless Connect. My interaction with the homeless revealed that poor oral health could be the consequence of financial barriers or the misconception that without pain dental care is unnecessary. Amidst this vulnerable population, I discovered that oral health education and prevention is a vital component of comprehensive care.
After hundreds of hours of observations and volunteer work, my interest in dentistry was solidified. I enrolled in the San Francisco State University post-baccalaureate program, where I completed the prerequisites for dental school alongside a cohort of 60 fellow career-changers. Although the post-baccalaureate program provided me with a solid didactic foundation, it required my husband and I to live apart from 2013-2015. While attending the program, I lived with my husband’s 95 year-old grandfather and 90 year-old grandmother, during which time I coincidentally served as their caregiver.
In 2016, my husband and I moved back to the Washington, DC area. Our move was preceded by the serendipitous announcement of my husband’s promotion, and my admission into dental school at the University of Maryland. From 2016-2020, I completed my dental education at the world’s first dental college! During my dental school career, I was honored with the Russell Gigliotti Memorial Scholarship, Dennis M. Thome Memorial Scholarship, Gaylord Fund Scholarship, Henry S. Hohouser Memorial Scholarship, and the Maryland State Dental Association Foundation Scholarship. I was inducted into the Gorgas Odontological Honorary Society, Gamma Pi Delta National Prosthodontic Honor Society, and Omricon Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society. I was selected during my senior year to participate in the prestigious implant clerkship. At the conclusion of my senior year, I was also recognized with the American College of Prosthodontics Predoctoral Achievement Award and the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Award. Eventually, I graduated in the top 10% of my class. I now work as an associate dentist in Columbia, Maryland.