As I look back at my four years as a dental student, I can confidently see God’s grace at work. My perception of dentistry has changed completely from day one to convocation in June. Little over four years ago, I received my acceptance letter into the program at the University of Toronto. Soon, thoughts began filling my mind: being in a position of power and influence, job security, respect from society, and the fancy toys one can buy and enjoy. All of these are not inherently immoral, but they do reveal the desires of our hearts and can blind us from enjoying the true giver of all things (cf. Matt 15:19). God quickly steered me back to the calling that we have with any vocation, according to 1 Corinthians 10:31: “to do it all for God’s glory.” Whether you own a busy dental practice or are learning how to restore a cavity for the first time, the calling is to reflect our great God to others.
This is not an exhaustive list but some principles to glorify God during your days in dental school.
Know your God through His Word
Dental students often find themselves competing for time to live fruitful lives in school. We want to do well academically and create meaningful friendships with our peers and those outside of school. We tend to find ourselves either invested in knowing our trade well or spending time with friends. We study a procedure for many hours and days in order to effectively treat a patient and achieve the best clinical outcome. Similarly, living this high calling requires investing time in knowing our God personally through knowing His written word (cf. 1 John 1-4). We must read His word in order to decipher whether our actions and motives align with His desires. Reading the Bible may seem like a burden on top of our other responsibilities but the writers emphasize its importance as a tool to renew our minds (cf. Rom 12:1-2), find delight (cf. Ps 1:2) and to lift us up (cf. Ps 19:7). Everyday we are swimming against worldly currents polluted with our selfish desires and the brokenness of others. This spiritual exercise does not guarantee worldly blessings or great academic success, but reaps the best gift of knowing our God and how to live for Him.
Thank God for His Grace
Dental school is a whole new challenge. Unlike the five to six classes taken in an undergraduate semester or the flexible schedule in research, dental school demands every ounce of your energy and attention. A typical day begins very early in the morning, followed by classes and clinics and ends with reviewing for the upcoming exam or procedure for your patient. Dental school may not always be smooth sailing. For instance, patients may not appreciate your work and miss your appointments, or instructors may not be attentive to your learning experience. More often than not, you will be running low on energy compounded with frustration. How does one praise God in “every circumstance” (cf. 1 Thes 5:18) when adversity floods into our lives? Remember the God of your past and present. It is not a coincidence that you have been academically successful from a young age until now. God has graciously gifted you a seat in the program and the perseverance to undergo trials. David wrote in Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Despite the hardships both Paul and David experienced, they confidently gave thanks because God was with them. That same God is also with us. Instead of being cynical about our situation, let’s praise God for giving us another day to live as His child to reflect His glory to our peers and instructors. Whether you are cleaning a patient’s mouth or performing a difficult procedure for the first time, praise God for His presence and that you are making a positive impact for your patients. God’s grace enables us to acknowledge our limitations and humbly rely on Him to get through the day.
Journey in Community
Even though the mouth is a small part of the body, the intricate details from the basic sciences to the logistics of operating a clinic constitute dentistry as a field of its own. When the majority of a dental’s student life is spent either studying or seeing patients, tunnel vision may set in and you may forget that there are believers on this journey with you. In Romans 1:12, Paul and the Christians in Rome mutually encouraged each other’s faith. It was a reciprocal relationship where both Paul and the other Christians gave and received. Similarly, as Christian dental students, we are meant to walk through life and training together. We are faced with many worldly temptations such as comparing our clinical progress with that of our peers, envying others’ blessings such as having good instructors or clinical cases, or succumbing to anger when situations do not play into our favour. By God’s grace, He provides other brothers and sisters in Christ within dentistry so that we might carry each other’s burdens (cf. Gal 6:2). In my own life, fellow believers and I have met up to study the Word together and prayed for each other. We celebrated when blessings arrived and encouraged one another during adversity. It is much easier to rejoice and fight temptation together as a whole. God receives the glory when you help others and when you humbly accept their help and care. If your dental school does not have a fellowship, find community at your local church or university group. This journey was not meant to be walked alone.