Saturday, 27 September 2014

Top 10 Things To Do in South East Asia

So I thought I'd venture away from dentistry in this post, especially since I've been feeling a bit under the weather for the past couple of days so my brain is a bit fried!

I know a lot of people like to visit this area of the world whether it just be for a holiday or as part of an elective or gap year so I'd thought I'd share my own experience.

If you're thinking about visiting Africa for your elective, why not check out my Top 10 things to do in Tanzania?

So this summer, me and my boyfriend went on a month-long trip to South East Asia.
This trip was something I had always wanted to do as my family originate from that area of the world and I have heard lots of anecdotes from my boyfriend who used to live in Hong Kong.

When I was trying to organise our trip I relied mainly on Trip Advisor and also this Lonely Planet guide; however, I came to the conclusion throughout our trip that recommendations from friends, family and acquaintances you meet along the way were the best way to plan trips.

So here are some of my recommendations for those of you planning a trip to South East Asia

General Travel Tips

We booked our flights via skyscanner which was useful for us as we weren't too fussed about what airline we wanted to fly with and we were reasonably flexible with dates. We booked our long haul flights about 2 months in advance, leaving the shorter budget flights to nearer the time, in fact we booked the last flights only 2 weeks before we were to fly!

We flew to Hong Kong from London via Beijing, which was fortunate as on the way back as we were able to get a 72 hour visa during our connection so we could leave the airport to visit a friend who was working in Beijing.

Despite travelling for a month, we also decided to pack light - about one weeks worth of clothes. Having experienced lugging an 80 litre backpack around Africa the previous summer, I didn't think the back pain was worth the extra clothing. We only had to do laundry four or five times and our backpacks could be taken on as hand luggage too. I would highly recommend taking a small backpack such as my Cabin Max backpack (mine was pink, easy to spot on a carousel!).

Whilst we were in Hong Kong we also bought a new camera from a shop in Mong Kok. Fortunately we had a friend who knew quite a bit about cameras (unlike us) and helped us choose this camera. I would definitely recommend taking a decent camera on your travels to capture all those memories but remember to look after it.

For other general travel tips, see my blog post with other top tips here.

Top Things To Do

1.WAN CHAI, Hong Kong. 

See the retro style trams , the view from Wooloomooloo's bar is breathtaking and a night out in Wan Chai you won't (you probably will) forget!

A view of Wan Chai from Wooloomooloo Rooftop Bar

2. THE RACES, Hong Kong 

We went to Sha Tin racecourse, but there's Happy Valley too which is apparently much better. 
Enjoy filling in a betting sheet or two over a beer and cheer along with the rest of the crowd for your chosen horse!

To see other things to do when you're in Hong Kong see my other blog post here.

Horse Racing at Sha Tin Race Course

3. SAI KUNG, Hong Kong

Beach hop across the small islands just across from Sai Kung (watch out for the shark nets) and eat at the famous seafood restaurants along the seafront - you can pick out your meal from the numerous tanks outside the restaurants.

For more things to do in Hong Kong, see my blog post here.

A beach on one of the numerous small islands just off from Sai Kung

4. UBUD, Bali 

Bali is famous for its surfer beaches, but venture further island to the village of Ubud for amazing views of the rice fields and a wander through the Monkey temple forest (be careful, the monkeys are very naughty!).
For coffee lovers, there is a coffee plantation among the rice fields which makes Luwak Kopi - coffee beans that are collected from the droppings of the Luwak, a small ferret like animal. You can get a guided tour of the plantation and sample this unique coffee overlooking the rice fields. 

To read more about my trip to Bali, see my post about it here

This monkey is definitely not shy! Monkey Temple Forest, Ubud


Located in central Java, Indonesia, these 2 historical Temples offer not only breath taking architecture but an insight into the history of Indonesia as well as learning of both Hindu and Buddhist religions.
Yogjakarta is a relatively small town with diverse religions as nowadays Islam is the predominant faith in the area. 
Both temples are within driving distance of each other and we opted for a tour company to organise a day excursion to both which started bright and early at 4am so we could see the sunrise over Borobundur.
Yogjakarta is also a good base to trips to the nearby volcanoes such as Mount Merapi which is the most active volcano in Indonesia!

To read more about my trip to the temples, see my post here

The Hindu Temple of Prambanan, Yogjakarta


Visit the bustling and crowded capital of Indonesia, Jakarta to get an experience of old and new. 
The city is still full of old Dutch Colonial buildings and the square in Kota at weekends has a carnival vibe with bikes, balloons and ribbons to rent and locals dressed in costumes. 
Check out Cafe Batavia, although a littler pricier than other places, the food is great and the atmosphere really makes you feel like you're sitting in an old European colony!
Also don't be surprised if locals ask to take photos with you - especially if you're a girl. White people are not seen very often in these old areas of Jakarta. 
For a more modern experience of Jakarta check out some of the expat bars such as Skye (this has amazing views) or the Hard Rock Cafe

Renting out one of the colourful bicycles in Kota Square, Jakarta

7. KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

Malaysia has been having a tough time of late, but I would definitely recommend visiting the capital city if you're in that area of the world.
The Petronas Twin Towers are a famous image of the capital, but the best views of the city can be seen from KL tower which is higher up than the viewing bridge of KLCC and it's also easier to get access as tickets for the twin towers are limited each day. There's also a rotating restaurant at the top of the KL tower. 
The city is diverse, with the cultures of the Malay, Chinese and Indian coming together and the Hindu site at the Batu Caves is worth a visit if you can manage the hundreds of stairs as well as the cheeky monkeys!

To see my new blog post with top tips to do in KL, click here

The Petronas Twin Towers at KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

8. KO PHI PHI, Thailand

Just off Phuket, the group of Islands of Ko Phi Phi are what you may think of when people describe beaches of white sand and blue sea. 
These idyllic islands were where The Beach and The Man With the Golden Gun were filmed and seas are so clear it's a great place to snorkel as well as catching some rays!

See my new post on what other things you can get up to in Phuket here

Maya Beach where The Beach was filmed, Ko Phi Phi


A metropolitan, diverse city with renowned architecture such as the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the structures of Gardens by the Bay, this city is easy to get around with some great cheap places to eat such as The Maxwell Centre in China Town (try Hainanese chicken rice!).
The Night Safari brings a new perspective to the standard trip to the zoo and there is also a Universal Studios on Sentosa Island. 

See how to do Singapore in ONE DAY here

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore


Whether you are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, you need to experience a night out in Thailand.
Start off with a traditional Muay Thai match and then move on to a bar of your choice. The more conservative of you may enjoy a bar with a live band that go on late into the night but Thailand is famous for its more controversial activities such as Ping Pong shows, strip clubs or massage parlours.
What I can say is go wherever you feel comfortable and don't be pressurised into anything - whether it be eating a barbecued scorpion or having pictures with a Thai Ladyboy!
Be safe and you'll have a great time!

A Muay Thai ritual routine before the match, Thailand

I'd love to hear of your own experiences in South East Asia or any suggestions of places I might have missed!
These are just my top 10 from where I travelled in the Summer so I'd love to know if there are other great places in Asia so I can hopefully add them to my next trip over there!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

10 Reasons to Choose Newcastle Dental School

As the UCAS applications loom, those of you who are considering studying dentistry must be thinking, which dental schools should I put down on my application?

There are 16 dental schools in the UK, some only taking on postgraduates, and but all have excellent reputations - see the BDA website for a full list. 

Each school is unique with its own way of running things and there are so many things you can take into consideration when making your decision about where to study.

The main thing I would say is to do your research!
Attend open days if you can, research the city as well as the university, and don't be afraid to choose somewhere far from home if you like the look of the university. 
When I chose Newcastle, I was at that point living in Dover - a 6 hour drive away! After a few weeks into the course however, it didn't really make a difference to me that I couldn't really pop home for the weekend as I was having so much fun!

So let's just get right to the point, Why Choose Newcastle?


The view of the famous bridges on Newcastle Quayside

Newcastle was great for me because everything is very compact, you can walk everywhere!
The city is also very pretty - the scene on the quayside is well known and is always a great backdrop to a chilled drink by the river in the summer.
There is also some lovely looking architecture along Grey Street (which is packed with very good bars and restaurants) leading up to Gray's Monument.
There is always a new place to explore from the Life science centre, to Grainger marketplace, to forest walks in Jesmond Dene. You'll get to know the ins and outs of this great city during your years studying there!


The Story so Far performing at Trillian's bar in Newcastle

Newcastle is well known for its nightlife, especially since Geordie Shore started airing on MTV a few years ago!
Whilst Newcastle can be a great night out with some memorable (or not so memorable) bars and venues there is something out there for whatever you're interested in.
Gigs and concerts are commonplace with regular big names at the O2 Academy and Metro Radio Arena as well as the Stadium of Light a short metro ride away in Sunderland, but also smaller venues such as both Newcastle and Northumbria Student unions, Trillians Bar and The Think Tank at Digital also host well known bands and acts to everyone's taste.
There are some great comedy nights at The Stand as well as the student unions and shows at the Theatre Royal, The Northern stage and the Live Theatre

And remember in Newcastle, you can get trebles. For those of you who haven't heard of this term before, it means 3, yes 3 shots of spirit and mixer. And what's more, you can get one for £2!
Be careful though, it's easy to go a treble too far - have fun, but be safe!


Dental students in all years are all very well integrated at Newcastle and this is mainly down to Dentsoc.
Every couple of weeks the resident bar in the Dental School, The Crown and Bridge, opens to dental students and staff. 
It's a great way to meet older years who you will probably turn to for advice at some point, and Dentsoc hosts some great events throughout the year from Hustings to Blind Date Dentsoc. 
Dentsoc also organises a Ball and Field Day - a day of sports and socialising with Glasgow and Dundee Dental Schools.
For a one off payment you get access to the bar FOR LIFE and it has beer and cider on draft as well as wine and soft drinks. 


Get to practice dentistry on Phantom Heads in the Clinical Skills Unit

The dental hospital at Newcastle has facilities such as the Clinical Skills Unit where you can practice dentistry on phantom heads before being let loose on real patients.
Each of the clinics are dedicated to a different area of dentistry such as Child Dental Health and Periodontics so you can get a well rounded experience of all aspects of dentistry.
You have access to a wide selection of material at the medical library, The Walton and there is a Dental Learning Resource Centre where you can access microscopes and a large collection of animal skulls and teeth.


Newcastle has a prestigious reputation and a lot of the staff you will come into contact with are internationally known.
Newcastle's dean, Professor Jimmy Steele, is the pioneer for the new NHS dental contract following his analysis of the current contract in a paper in 2009. The Pilot for the new contract is therefore being adopted throughout the outreach practices around the Dental School and the system used in the hospital is based on the 'traffic lighting' style of the pilot.
It is a great advantage to use a system like this at the moment as it looks as if this is the way forward in NHS dentistry and Newcastle is preparing its students for the change.


The oldest part of the university - the Quadrangle 

Newcastle's campus is located in the heart of the city - so you can always nip into town for a spot of lunch and facilities on its doorstep!


Clinical and seminar groups rarely exceed more than 10 people so there is lots of one to one teaching at Newcastle and the staff can get to know each student and cater to each of their needs individually.


A common site every match day - the Toon Army

It's true - people are friendlier up north.
Or perhaps it's just that life is at a slightly slower pace (I have realised this since living in London), but it's completely normal to get into a deep conversation with a stranger on the Metro - I have yet to do this on the tube!
Once you learn to understand the Geordie twang (howay pet), you will learn to love these northerners!
On match days the city centre is overrun with the Toon Army - just make sure you don't wear red around St James' Park that day!  


Newcastle Dental school has a great network with support even after you graduate through the Alumni society as well as that lifelong membership to Dentsoc.
Hustings is often frequented with ex-students and official and unofficial reunions occur frequently. 


Hadrian's Wall is only a short drive away

Newcastle is not the only attraction of the north east - the Northumberland countryside is a beautiful setting for a bike ride, Hadrian's wall is close by and when it eventually gets warm enough there are some good beaches along the coast. I would personally recommend Whitley Bay.
You also have to visit the Angel of the North, although there isn't that much there and hop on a train down to Durham for a exploration of this historic city.

So why not make Newcastle one of the four choices you put down on your UCAS application? You won't regret it!

For more information please see the Newcastle Dental School Website.

If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to comment on the post below!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

How to Volunteer as a Dentist

This article can also be found at

It is common for students to volunteer during their summers before entering final year as part of their electives, but volunteering as part of a gap year or sabbatical is also popular.

There are many different experiences in many different locations out there: from rural village hospitals and schools in Peru, to hospital work in Cambodia, to private clinics in Dubai. You can even do your elective in the UK or choose to shadow at veterinary practices!

Whichever option you may choose, there are lots of ways you can assist those who would really appreciate your expertise.

Me carrying out an extraction on a patient over the watchful eye of my supervisor, Dr Mzee

Electives and working abroad


When I was deciding where to go for my elective, I was overwhelmed by the choices available on sites such as Bridge 2 Aid, Work the World and Dentaid.

A group of friends and I found a company called Zanzibar Placement which runs a 2 week mixed placement of educational visits and screening children in schools.  

A group of children in a Masai village enjoying one of their lessons

Our placement included accommodation, food and travel (excluding our flights) for the 2 weeks of volunteering. There are some packages out there that include flights and you can also change the length of the placement.  
We also got a discounted rate as there was 4 of us in our group: the cost of the placement was around £1000 each plus our flights, which we booked through skyscanner.

The structure of my elective did change however because of the time that we chose to go. We arrived into Zanzibar, a predominantly Islamic region of Tanzania, during the fasting period of Ramadan when all the schools are closed. So in the end, we spent the 2 weeks treating patients in Kivunge village hospital.

The placement broadened my dental experience and my extraction technique was really put to the test! Primarily we carried out extractions, but we also provided fillings (when our portable compressor wasn't playing up), endodontics, dentures and trauma management. 
My friend also helped to deliver a baby on one of our quieter mornings - dentists in Tanzania train with doctors for 3 years so can be called upon in all sorts of medical situations!

Treating patients was very different to what we were used to especially since we were trying to communicate with very basic Swahili.  
The patients were often very scared and in a lot of pain and would try to pull your hand out of their mouth mid treatment. 
To our amazement there wasn't any radiographic facility, even for endodontics and every patient was given antibiotics post treatment. A group of ladies, who were school teachers and all wore matching uniforms, came in complaining of ‘black spots’ between their front teeth. After providing them with hand-mixed GIC fillings, they all expected and insisted upon dawa, the swahili word for medicine. It felt counterintuitive to give antibiotics for this kind of treatment, but our supervisor explained that the women would think that something was wrong if we didn’t.
We acted as both dentist and technician, making a denture from scratch chair side in less than an hour and before going to Africa, I had never seen occlusal calculus!  

All the treatment we provided was free of charge (they would've normally have had to pay) and we had brought toothpaste and brushes to give out so by the end of our second week, there was always a long queue outside our room as word spread of the 'English Doctors'.

These 2 weeks were extremely fulfilling and an incredible experience that reminded me that our profession is a global one which varies not only according to wealth, but to culture as well.  
I would definitely recommend this type of experience not only to students planning their electives but to all dentists no matter what stage their career is at.

And of course you can make the most out of visiting the area of the world you are in - we went on a safari after our placement was over!

Check out my recent blog post with my Top 10 things to do in Tanzania when you're there! Or if you're thinking of volunteering in South East Asia check out my Top 10 things to do over there!

A Masai welcoming dance in Ngorogoro National Park

When I had finally decided where I wanted to go for my elective, I found that there was a lot to organise. Here is a brief checklist I have made that you may find useful:


  • Double check your itinerary - flights, other transport and hotel bookings. Take print outs with you and keep them somewhere safe
  • Passport - or else you're not going anywhere!
  • Insurance - you'll need separate insurance for when you're volunteering (see Dental Protection) and when you'll be travelling. A useful site to find travel insurance is Money Supermarket.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate vaccinations done before flying out and take enough anti-malarials if you require them. See NHS choices for what precautions you may need to take. For my elective in Tanzania I needed a yellow fever vaccination and hepatitis A and typhoid boosters as well as anti-malarials.
  • Organise your visa if you require one - make sure this is a working or volunteer visa not a tourist visa. If you have used a company to organise your elective, they may organise some of this for you.
  • Find out if you need PEP - this is Post-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV. Some placements there will be PEP available if you need it but if you're working in an at risk rural environment you may have to take your own. Your local occupational health should provide you with it but you may have to pay.
  • Ask around for donations of dental equipment and supplies- ask local practices, hospitals and companies such as Glaxosmithkline. Rural hospitals are always grateful for equipment and you can hand out products such as toothbrushes to patients

Electives and education programmes in the UK

Volunteering abroad is very popular but it can be expensive and it isn't the only option.
Some people choose to do their electives in the UK, usually in the form of shadowing with varying degrees of practical experience and commonly in a hospital setting - one of my friends did a maxfax placement. 
You could also try getting in touch with professionals with more unusual interests such as equine or forensic dentists, those who are brave enough to work on Harley Street or one of the dental corporates such as IDH.

There are also other ways to help out in the community. Some dental practices run educational outreach schemes to promote oral health and I was involved in a similar project at dental school.

The project initially just involved arranging visits to schools and after school clubs such as brownies and scouts to teach children about oral health. However, it soon expanded to include lecturing at career events, running workshops at science fairs and promoting oral health at care homes.
We recruited fellow dental students to help run events and raise donations from local dental practices and dental companies such as the DDU, Dental Protection and GlaxoSmithKline.

This shows that you don't have to travel hundreds of miles to a different country in order to share your expertise and help others. You also gain some valuable experience and develop skills which all add to your CV.

Other ways to help

Don't forget there are more conventional ways to help others.

You can always fundraise - sponsored runs or challenges, a bake off, own-clothes days at work, jumble sales, anything you can think of!  

You can also donate equipment and consumables to be sent abroad or you can donate money directly to charities such as Dentaid who help provide the resources for dental care in the developing world.

So what have experience do you have in volunteering or fundraising? Had a particularly fun, interesting or unusual elective? Let me know in the comments section below!

A reminder of sites to visit if you're thinking of volunteering or fundraising

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

#Tubuleslive event: Making a Good Impression with Dr Akit Patel

So this may be a bit of a delayed post, but on the 4th of September I attended a #Tubuleslive event: Successful impressions with Dr Akit Patel.

Despite it falling in my first week back practising dentistry in 4 months, the evening was informative and together with the study days that week helped me to get my brain back into dentist mode after such a long break!

Here are some of the main points I took away from that evening from the view of a foundation dentist:

  • In order to provide your patient with a successful extra-coronal restorations, the impression you take must be of good quality
  • There are varying of techniques that can be employed, but for quality and convenience's sake,  a single stage, single material technique such as Impregnum would be preferred
  • Often, impressions taken by GDPs are deemed unsatisfactory by lab technicians, so learning how to take a good impression and appraise it effectively is crucial to reducing costs and to prevent disappointing patients
  • It is vital to manage the gingiva effectively in order to record the margins of the preparation clearly and there are different ways to do this which can be combined or used in isolation
  • Mechanical management with retraction cord or pastes, chemically with solutions or by surgical means
  • Although ferric sulphate is a popular solution to manage bleeding gingiva, it can cause discolouration so aluminium chloride should be used when in combination with Impregnum
  • There are different cords types out there, but braided or knitted are the best and are the easiest to manipulate
  • Whilst many practitioners use stock trays to take the impression, it would be better to have a special tray made which the correct spacer for whichever material you are taking the impression with. When using Impregnum, metal unperforated  trays should be used and there is no need for adhesive
  • When using Impregnum you should block out any undercuts - it would be rather embarrassing if you got the tray stuck in the patient's mouth!
  • Always remember to take an opposing model and ideally a bite registration and if applicable, choose the shade of the restoration prior to taking the impression

Whilst I still feel a little bit rusty when it comes to impression taking for extra-coronal restorations, I would definitely recommend attending CPD events like this to expand your knowledge.

It can feel intimidating to be in a room with people with much more clinical experience than you, but these people can give you valuable advice and always welcome questions - no matter how trivial you think they may be. 

The next #Tubuleslive event is coming up on the 2nd of October with Professor Francis Hughes: The Well Elderly - A Major Challenge for the Periodontist.

I am planning to attend, so if anyone in London would like to come with me please let me know! 

There is also an introductory event planned for October 15th for Young Dentists if anyone is interested.

To see my other posts about previous #TubulesLive events see here

Saturday, 13 September 2014

What To Do Now Your DF1 Interview is Over

Here is the fourth instalment to my guide to the DF1 application process.

Offers Day

This is the most excruciating day ever (well, maybe finals results day was worse).  
I didn't get my offer until around 4pm, but I know people got their emails through much later than that. Do something that will distract you during the day, otherwise you'll just be checking your emails every 2 minutes. 


Accept it there and then!
I've heard horror stories of people losing their places as they forgot to accept their offer within 48 hours.

Well done! Even if it's not your first choice! It's only a year and at least you have a job offer!
Now you just have to wait to hear from your deanery. This varies per scheme, mine didn't get in touch until April time so expect a wait. 


Don't panic!
There is a lot of support out there for you: last year there was a support group on Facebook you could join and your Dental School should provide support and advice for you.

Don't be disheartened
All the people I knew who didn't get offers first time around got them on second allocation in June! There is never a 100% pass rate for BDS, some people defer, some give up their places when they get offers in Scotland and sometimes more training places become available. What's more, most of the people I knew got one of their top choices on second allocation!
And this year, every single UK graduate got a job in the end!

And remember there is always other options such as SHO posts, volunteering or working abroad or the private sector. 

What next?

Get that BDS! 
Get all your competencies done by their deadlines and revise hard, it'll be hard work but well worth it in the end!

Some schemes ask you to fill out paperwork quite early on so don't leave things to the last minute, there is A LOT of paperwork.

The next step will be to choose your training practice. I shall post the final instalment, How to Choose Your DF1 Training practice in January around the time the offers are sent out and I will give you some advice on what to consider at this stage.

Next weeks post will be something a little bit different: How to Volunteer as a Dentist. 

NEW: You can also follow me on Dentinal tubules

Saturday, 6 September 2014

What To Expect On The Day of Your DF1 Interview

Following my previous post about preparing for your DF1 interview, here is an outline of what to expect on the day of that dreaded assessment!


Don't lose your head! 
It'll probably be the most nervous day you've ever had, but don't panic! Take deep breaths, have a good breakfast, stay hydrated and remember, everyone is in the same boat!

Remember to take all your required documents
These are listed in your email containing your offer for interview. Take photocopies of each document just in case too. If you don't have everything however don't panic - you can send them in afterwards if need be.

Also if you know somebody who has had their interview before yours, don't talk to them! 
There are lots of different scenarios and it'll just distract you. If you've prepared properly and as long as you think before you speak, you'll do fine!

Arrive in plenty of time
This will allow you to find where you are supposed to go whilst remaining calm!

Look the part
First impressions count so dress smartly, it is an interview after all


The order of the day will vary according to which group you're put in, but if it's the same as last year there will be 3 parts:

1. Communication station - you will be given the scenario to read before you enter the station and its lasts 10 minutes.
For me this scenario was explaining treatment options to a patient (an actor) for a traumatised 11 with an enamel-dentine fracture with no other clinical or radiographic pathology evident.
Remember to use layman's terms when explaining diagnoses and treatment plans, be honest about the prognosis of different options and know the NHS price bands.

2. Professionalism and leadership station - again you will be given the scenario before entering and is also 10 minutes.
This scenario for me was untreated periodontal disease in a patient who was being seen by a colleague and how you would manage this.
Remember not to implicate your colleague, mention looking through the notes, speaking to your trainer maybe before your colleague and you can mention patient compliance and competence too. 

3. Situational Judgement Test - this was 90 minutes last year, which was just enough time in my opinion. Keep an eye on the time!

And now that it's over you can celebrate, you've earned it!  
How are you planning to celebrate? Let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...