What it means to be a dental student social media influencer in 2021

Between time in the clinic, studying for tests, and treating patients, 10 dental students have made helping others their priority. They have utilized social media as a means of connecting with other current and aspiring dental students to learn and give advice. Only in their 20s, these “dental student influencers” below have made long-lasting impacts on others and are just getting started…

Tyler Brown

Instagram: @dr.tbrown Bio: 🦷 Dental Student 🎯 Attention To Detail 📍 ATL || BOS 📚 Tufts Dental D21’ 💡Instagram Followers: 4,720 bit.ly/DrTBrown

Education: Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, expected graduation 2021

Favorite procedure learned: Extractions.

Favorite product: The mirror. I’m able to show patients what I see and point certain things out they might not have seen on their own. We can go through the process together.

Tell me about your YouTube channel. Why did you start it and what’s next?

I have one YouTube channel and a video series on Instagram with my roommate, Tyrell Fridie, called @_futuredds. We wanted to create a platform to help pre-dental students. While we were going through the process, we found there was a lack of resources. We didn’t have the perspective of what it was like to be in dental school. There were no dental school influencers when we went through the application process. Our goal is to showcase our experiences and get different perspectives from students in the United States from different schools. With our series, “Your oral health matters,” we wanted to make dentistry visually fun. Dentistry can be bland; we wanted to bring excitement and fun to learning about oral health. We receive comments and direct messages every day from people thanking us for our efforts and asking us questions. It’s been a great ride.

We are currently working on a new aspect for the platform to increase community engagement, as well as continuing to foster a safe environment for pre-dental students to ask questions.

How do you balance social media and school?

Time management. Dental school taught me how much I can do in a day when I optimize my time and work efficiently. With that time, some people may enjoy playing video games. I enjoy making videos for others.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a first-year dental student?

Keep the main thing, the main thing. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in other things while in dental school. Always handle your education and studies to make that your main priority. Everything else will fall in line.

Charlotte Georgiou

Instagram: @stethoscopesandsarcasm Bio: D1 @ TUSDM, Boston 🦷👩🏼‍⚕‍🐘 Real life as a Non-trad dental student, artist, wife & mother @landauuniforms ambassador 🇬🇧🏳️‍🌈🇺🇸🌏💜 she/her MBA app.mykaleidoscope.com/scholarship/landauuniforms2021 Instagram Followers: 7,813

Education: Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, expected graduation 2024

Favorite procedure learned: Because of the pandemic, we were completely remote last semester and I’ve only done a handful of hands-on work. Being able to hold instruments is exciting and feels like I am accomplishing something.

Favorite product: My #330 Bur. It’s a bit of a workhorse, but I love it.

Why dentistry?

Back in middle school and high school in the United Kingdom, I was planning on becoming a physician. I went back to college in 2017 as a pre-med student and shadowed physicians of all specialties. It didn’t feel right. Someone suggested shadowing a dentist, and I fell in love. I loved being in the clinic, asking questions, and combining science with the arts. In a previous life, I was involved in making and selling artwork. My family and I moved to the United States in 2014, and I have dual nationality in both countries. We moved for my son’s education, for my career and my husband’s. It has been the best decision.

Do you wish you found dentistry sooner?

I was a whole different person at 21 and I see a lot of who I was in traditional dental students. In the 15 years before I entered dental school, I learned so much about myself and what I want. I learned skills you can only gain through time and experience, like how to run a team and manage a business. If I had done this at 21, I would have become a physician, which wouldn’t have been the right path for me. As a parent of three, I have gained time management skills. I wouldn’t go back and do things differently. I am who I am because of my experiences.

What inspired you to share your dental school journey?

I started to share when I was pre-med, but felt I had more to say when I got accepted to dental school. Not a lot of non-traditional students in dental or healthcare, in general, had stories like me, about a previous career and raising children. I found a lot of content and support for undergrads applying to dental school, but for those of us who weren’t playing by the rule book, I wanted to offer support and show that it’s possible.

Garrett Hawley

Instagram: @garretthawley_

Bio: 📍Florida Dental student

Instagram followers: 106K

Education: LECOM School of Dentistry, expected graduation 2023

Favorite procedure learned: Fixed process with crown prep. I enjoy those, because it’s a challenge, but it’s been fun to learn how to prep a tooth. It’s the most life-changing for a person; if they want veneers, the crown prep will change their smile.

Favorite product: The VPS we use. After I’m done with it, I like to put it together in a ball and bounce it around the room.

What’s one thing you wish your non-dental friends knew about dentistry?

What that struck me most is that dentistry is an art form. It’s a challenge, especially as someone who hasn’t been much into the arts. A lot of people don’t know to appreciate the art form of dentistry.

Why dentistry?

I liked healthcare because I like to help people. I chose dentistry over medicine because I get to have the best of both worlds: change lives for the better and have the option to live my life and be my own boss. I’m excited to be helping people but not be married to my trade. Without the risk of burnout, you can enjoy what you do every day.

How has social media impacted your dental school experience?

I’ve been able to connect with dental students from around the world, learn techniques, and get perspective from outside of my school, which is super valuable.

I use TikTok to share the fun side of dentistry. I am serious about dental school, but I’m also a fun person, even outside of social media. Dentistry is fun and I enjoy it – I want to show others it’s an awesome profession. I love teaching about dentistry. There is so much that people don’t know about the field. Social media has been a great way to share and connect with others.

Valentina Leonett

Instagram: @leonettdental

Bio: 🦷Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health 👩🏻‍⚕‍Third year dental student 🇻🇪 International student from Venezuela 🌟 Radiating positivity m.facebook.com/intldentalstudents

Instagram followers: 2,753

Education: Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, expected graduation 2022

Favorite procedure learned: Crown prep.

Favorite product: Prevident.

What inspired you to share your personal experience and dental school journey?

I’m an international student, there are not a lot of us in dental school. When I was applying, there were not a lot of people who could answer my questions. Social media has been a great way to share my experiences. I hope to be someone that even one person could relate to. I want to continue to grow my page and show that not everything is picture perfect. I share both my good and bad days. We tend to compare on social media, but dental school is different for every person. It’s a different journey for everyone.

Favorite thing about being a dental student?

Patient-provider interactions. Getting to know new people and learning about their cultures and what motivates them to visit the dentist. It’s very heartwarming to see people’s smiles, health, and lives change afterward.

Can you share a time you helped someone who reached out to you via social media?

Because there are not a lot of international students in dental school, people reach out through Instagram or Facebook for help through the process. The most rewarding part is when I get the text that they get accepted into dental school. There can be limitations for international applicants and that’s the reason I open my social media — to share my experiences.

David Martin

Instagram: @iamdocmartin

Bio: Creative. Philanthropic. Dental Student. Tufts Dental🦷 BOS📍Owner: @nslclothingco Co-Founder: @webelievedmdneverstoplovingnsl.com

Instagram followers: 4,310

Education: Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, expected graduation 2023

Favorite procedure learned: A Class 2 restoration posterior composite. They began as a challenge, but that’s the beauty of challenges – you grow from them.

Favorite product: Support chairs in the clinic. They’re ergonomically perfect – I love it.

What’s the dental school experience like amid the pandemic?

It’s been a total 180°. The hardest part has been shifting from a set schedule before COVID, then having everything come to a halt. Switching to virtual had positives, but also negatives. You have to be responsible with your time. It was an adjustment to be back on campus and have to relearn time management. While we were online, I loaded up on learning didactic studies. Now, instead of trying to mass learn the information, I can study and understand what’s happening before I take a test.

You’ve started an amazing streetwear brand, Never Stop Loving, outside of school. What’s it like balancing a passion project on top of dental school?

Challenging. But, it’s also motivating and charging. I have to stay busy to see my best self, and it allowed me to do that. I’m creative at heart and this is keeping me going. My goal was to set it up so it can run itself while I’m back in school. The biggest part of the process has been time management.

What’s one thing you wish your non-dental friends knew about dentistry?

I wish they knew that dentistry is a medical profession. It’s not to be undermined and taken lightly. Oral health is important and can lead to other health issues. It starts with what you put into your body and your mouth is the gatekeeper.

Kamran Pakdamanian

Instagram: @smileswithkammy

Bio: If we vibe, we vibe. // 🦷 | WesternU DMD’23 ✨ | team @vcoterie

Instagram followers: 7,830

Education: Western University College of Dental Medicine,  expected graduation 2023

Favorite procedure learned: As a tech person, the coolest thing that I have learned has been how to use CAD/CAM and digital dentistry.

Favorite product: Kilgore International makes a mannequin for learning local anesthesia. Once you inject the mannequin it beeps when you hit the nerve.

Why dentistry?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a dentist. I was a Geek Squad agent for seven years. My dad is an engineer, and my mom is a nurse. Dentistry kind of fell in my lap. My dentist asked me to come to his office to fix his computer and when I saw him work on patients and watched the interactions he had, I thought it was the coolest thing. I asked him if I could come around more often and he showed me the ropes of dentistry. I went back to my school counselor to tell her dentistry is what I wanted to do. As a kinesthesiology major, it was tough to fulfill the requirements for dentistry, but I got it done and applied to dental school in one cycle.

I’m here now and am involving myself within the school community and pursuing my passions outside of school. When COVID hit a few months ago, I volunteered with the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) to give a lecture on TMJ. After that program, my friend and I got our school awarded $330,000 in a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Outside of school, I work as a private photographer and have taken advertisement photos for Twice, ADEC, Schein, and others. I am trying to get more involved in everything I do.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone applying to dental school?

If you want it, go get it, and don’t give up until you get it.

Can you share a time you had an impact on someone through social media?

When I first started my social media about a year ago, a student reached out to me from New York. She took the DAT twice, wasn’t getting the scores she wanted, and had lost faith in her dentistry dream. She was hesitant to even apply. I called her on the phone from California and told her I never had a stellar score or the ideal path. I advised her to apply and cast as wide of a net as possible – I applied to 21 schools and got interviews at seven. She applied and got accepted to NYU’s program. She messaged me after to say thank you and that if it weren’t for me, she would have never even applied. Knowing that I potentially helped to change her life resonated with me and keeps me going to help others.

Sameh Soliman

Instagram: @dentallyfe

Bio: Dentist & Dental Office 👨🏽‍⚕‍D3|ASDOH 🦷Dentistry is a Lyfestyle ▶️Follow for your guide into/through Dental School 💝PreDental Consulting #PayItForward 🔔YouTube Subscription⤵️youtube.com/c/dentallyfe/videos

Instagram followers: 4,639

Education: Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, expected graduation 2022

Favorite procedure learned: Implants. I haven’t placed myself yet but have assisted periodontists at my school and designed the implants.

Favorite product: Any type of camera. If you can document your work, that speaks volumes. It’s great to show patients their before and after. A picture is worth 1000 words.

Why dental school?

My family immigrated from Egypt to California. I would go with my mom to translate at her dental visits and saw what dentists did to relieve her pain. When I translated for her, I became included in the conversation and was always intrigued. As a teenager, I told her “I’m sorry you have to go through this. I am going to be your dentist one day.” And it stuck. Fifteen years later I am making the dream come true.

What’s the dental school experience like amid the pandemic?

I’m content with where we were and where we are now. My school is good at putting systems in place that have everyone’s best interests in mind. We had three months off. I used that time to focus and control what I could. Once back on campus, the clinic re-opened and our curriculum was shuffled to ensure everyone will graduate on time. Most of the population around our school is older, so we had to take precautions for the community. If this is any indication of what normal will be, I hope it will get a bit better.

What inspired you to share your personal experience and your dental school journey?

I have a lot of passion for dentistry, persistence, and perseverance. I applied to dental school twice. The first time, I applied to 19 schools and got rejected from all. It was a wake-up call for me. I took a gap year after college to study again and reapplied the following year. In the second round, I only got accepted to ASDOH and the decision was made for me. Hearing other dental influencers speak at conferences, I became inspired. I began sharing my experiences, and inspirational and motivational quotes. My purpose and greater calling are to help other students who are struggling to get where I am today.

Josie Tokarev

Instagram: @josiedental

Bio: 🦷 Dentistry | ✈️Travel | 🥂Lifestyle 🇨🇺 Cuban Born |🌴Miami Raised 🙋🏾‍♀‍ Diary of a First Gen to Dentist👇🏾 YouTube & More linktr.ee/Josiedental

Instagram followers: 4,008

Education: Marquette University School of Dentistry, expected graduation 2022

Favorite procedure learned: Might be an unpopular opinion, but a root canal. While challenging, relieving a patient who may be experiencing severe pain is so rewarding.

Favorite product: Loving AutoMatrix bands. Nerdy, but they’re great for Class 2s and they’re saving lives.

What inspired you to share your personal experience and your dental school journey on social media?

I started my social media journey when I was applying to schools. I hadn’t seen people document that struggle before. Every time I went to an interview, I would record my experience and post tips for other people. It was risky to put myself out there. I could have gotten to the end of the application cycle and not gotten in, but I was lucky. Since then, I have been able to share resources with others and be honest about my good days and bad days. It’s comforting to know that other people are experiencing what you’re experiencing.

Tell me about Decode Dental, your resource site for pre-dental and dental students. What was it like to start, and balance it with dental school?

Decode Dental has always been in the works, but I had never put it in one specific space. I started on YouTube and Instagram with tips. It was nice to put resources together for students. As we grow, we’re having events and creating a space they can go. I want to feature others and continue being as genuine as possible.

One of my biggest goals with all of my platforms has been to show that dentistry is an achievable goal. I am an immigrant from Cuba; no one in my family is in dental. I want to be a voice for others who don’t see themselves represented.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a first-year dental student?

The more you compare yourself to yourself, the better. Everyone is at a different level. You will all go to the same classes and exams. When you compare yourself to yourself, you are comparing yourself to your best. Remind yourself why you applied to dental school, what your goal is, and how you are helping yourself achieve that.

Priscilla Wu

Instagram: @the_wusdom_tooth

Bio: WesternU Dental Student , Alaska Grown, linktr.ee/smilesforyoo

Instagram followers: 1,302

Education: The Dental School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, expected graduation 2023

Favorite procedure learned: So far, I have only done practice simulation on other dental students.

Favorite product: The weirdly-shaped ergonomic chairs.

What inspired you to share your personal experiences and dental school journey on social media?

I am both an only child and a first-generation American. My journey to dental school would have been more difficult if I didn’t have guidance. I wanted to offer that same service to others.

Why dentistry?

My parents immigrated to America and opened a restaurant. I never slept at night and had to have stainless steel crowns put in for my early childhood caries. My teeth fell out early and I had to get orthodontic work done. I always enjoyed going to the dentist and thought it could be a potential work field for me. I attended a magnet middle school and then Health Careers High School in San Antonio. It was there where I began learning medical terms and testing out different medical careers. Senior year I chose to go more in-depth with dentistry and became an RDA.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a first-year dental student?

Find your support system. Going into dental school, you can get a weird first impression of people. Do one-on-ones with people rather than always meeting in group settings as a way to better get to know each other.

Michael Yoo

Instagram: @smilesforyoo

Bio: WesternU Dental Student , Alaska Grown linktr.ee/smilesforyoo

Instagram followers: 8,380

Education: Western University College of Dental Medicine, expected graduation 2022

Favorite procedure learned: When I was an assistant, I hated everything about endodontics. But now that I’m in dental school, I appreciate the skill in root canals and love doing anything endodontics.

Favorite product: Silver diamine fluoride. It was under production when I was at the University of Washington. The guy in the office next door was working on it at the time. It was cool to see where it started, and now I’m using it on patients.

What inspired you to share your personal experiences and your dental school journey?

I’m from Alaska and education isn’t a top priority there. My goal in my senior year of high school was to travel the world and maybe get an associate degree. I happened to go to the University of Washington, and I thought I knew what it would take to get into dental school. Growing up, I didn’t have a mentor. I am the first doctor and dentist in my family. I want to help other students who don’t have a mentor or guidance. YouTube seemed like the best option to share resources and tips. The amount of support and encouragement from my classmates, faculty, family, and girlfriend has been astounding and keeps me moving forward.

Outside of social media, some classmates and I started Lucent Dental, a non-profit organization to help the surrounding Pomona, California community. Every other weekend we provide oral hygiene kits to the community.

Can you share a time you had an impact on a patient?

Western University is known for community service and we have a mandatory community-based oral health center rotation. During this time, I saw a seven-year-old patient who came into the office afraid of the dentist and was even apprehensive about sitting in the chair. I started by giving him a glove and showing him my instruments to get him comfortable. By the end of the appointment, he was telling me he wanted to become a dentist. Going to the dentist isn’t a positive experience for most people, at least I was able to create a positive experience for him. It’s very rewarding and encouraging that what I’m doing is making an impact.

Plans for after dental school?

I want to return to Alaska to work through the Health Resources and Services Administration in the underserved areas. Also, I would like to either start a new non-profit or continue my YouTube page from Anchorage. My definition of success is not how much money I can make, but how many people I can uplift and stories I can help shine. When I go back to Alaska, I want to make people smile in the same way I’m doing now.

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