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Is dentistry a good fit for students?

Florida Atlantic University's mentor program gives its undergraduates a leg up

March 18, 2013

By Karen Fox, ADA News staff

Model student: Student and now teaching assistant Paul Johnson prepares a tooth on a typodont.

Helping hands: Florida Atlantic University students Peter Kerr and Mari Alex Michalakos work on a crown-preparation exercise.
Boca Raton, Fla.—One of the best ways to find out whether students are a good match for dental careers is to give them a feel for what it's like to actually perform dental procedures on a model or typodont.

Florida Atlantic University is offering a special opportunity for its undergraduates who are considering careers in the dental profession. The 10-week Intro to Dentistry hands-on certificate course gives students a chance to test their hand-eye coordination as it relates to dental procedures.

“We feel that this unique hands-on course helps undergraduate students determine if dentistry is a good fit,” said Florida Atlantic University alumnus Dr. Gerard Cuomo, director of the school's Pre-Dental Mentorship Program. “Florida Atlantic realized that its students needed to experience their own manual dexterity as it relates to the field of dentistry, so we created a hands-on course.”

Now in its fifth semester, Intro to Dentistry has given the university an opportunity to provide students with additional learning experiences at a dental school. Dr. Cuomo said the Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine recently invited FAU students to a hands-on waxing class at its Davie, Fla., campus.

Intro to Dentistry covers key dental skills beginning with the restorative unit, which includes basic principles from Class I, II and V cavity preparations to full crown and inlay/onlay preps. In laboratory skills, they learn how to fabricate a lab-processed temporary crown, pour models, and pin and trim dies. Specialty units follow, where students can perform root canal therapy on typodont teeth, fabricate orthodontic retainers and practice suturing techniques.

Experiencing dentistry in this way “not only assists the students in making the right career choice, but also helps them develop the confidence needed for the dental school interview process,” said Dr. Cuomo.

Live action: Dr. Cuomo (center), director of the school’s Pre-Dental Mentorship Program, leads the 2013 spring class with assistance from teaching assistant student Paul Johnson.
In class, Dr. Cuomo uses technology to perform tooth preparation techniques on a typodont and shows how various dental materials are used with a chair-mounted microscope and video camera. Students use the microscope to assist with tooth preparation design, fit checking and trouble-shooting.

FAU students are paired up during the 10 weeks and share a workstation with a bench partner. “Together they learn technical skills and become team players,” said Dr. Cuomo.

For more information about the course, contact Dr. Cuomo at, or look for the course on Facebook and YouTube.