Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Melbourne

The GAMSAT is your key to entry into the Doctor of Dental Surgery University of Melbourne program. The many months you spent preparing for the GAMSAT is all the more worthwhile after entering the program and realising how much of an impact you can make.

Hi! I’m Alison. Let me share with you my experiences of the Doctor of Dental Surgery in the hopes that it will be strong GAMSAT study motivation and give a bit more insight into the degree structure and how fun it all can be!

The Doctor of Dental Surgery is a master’s level degree at the University of Melbourne which allows you to graduate as a general dentist. The course ethos is on the prevention of dental disease and focus are placed upon pre-clinical practical classes and clinical patient treatments in all specialties of dentistry.

Watch a course orientation video!

First Year DDS

The first year of dental school was exciting as I moved interstate, moved into a college and lived only a bike’s ride away from the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. This was a huge change from living 1.5 hours away from my undergraduate university.

Apart from the many social activities that were on (Pub Crawl, Cruise night and Ball) throughout the year, first year was mainly establishing a strong foundation of theoretical knowledge. This involved:

  • Learning anatomy and biochemistry behind oral health diseases: dental caries, periodontal disease, erosion
  • Growth and development: amelogenesis, dentinogenesis, facial structures, timeframe of growth for primary and permanent teeth and morphology

We spent many weeks across the year working in the Level 1 lab with other students completing workshops on 1/head and neck anatomy and 2/oral anatomy. We also had problem-based learning (PBL) cases where we given a case (typically periodontally related) and had to work through a diagnosis and treatment plan.

This year also included an introduction to population oral health and the significance of dental programs across Australia in helping to minimise the dental oral health burden.

The most exciting part of first-year were the procedural skills practical classes. This was our first insight into what dentistry was all about. We learnt cavity preparation principles and how to complete simple restorations using the tools of the trade! We started of with using virtual reality and then moved on to preclinical sessions in the lab.

Of course, the dental ball and cruise night was also one to remember!

Second Year DDS

Our introduction to different dental specialties began in second year. We were introduced to more complex topics and procedures and had to balance both preclinical sessions as well as lectures throughout the year. We learnt how to:

  • Make full and partial acrylic dentures in the lab
  • Learnt how to place amalgams, complete larger restorations; crown preparations on mannikins and models, use putty keys and make a temporary crown
  • Run statistical tests through PRISM.

Many of us also began our two-year long research project which either involved a literature review, working in the lab, looking at forensic odontology (e.g. the teeth of mummies! πŸ¦·π“€), or analysing qualitative data.

Along with preclinical sessions, we had practical clinical sessions with patients at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne (RDHM). We were taught to comprehensively examine the patient (medical history, dental history, family and social history, charting and periodontal charting) as dental treatment is not just about teeth but holistic treatment of the patient!

We saw patients that required dentures at RDHM, had to clinically decide between acrylic and cobalt-chrome dentures and make them ourselves (step-by-step) in the lab. Some people were able to construct and deliver the denture within a year but many, like me, were unable to due to Covid-19.

Specialty subjects introduced included:

  • Oral medicine, radiology and pathology
  • Oral Surgery
  • Principles of Medicine and Surgery in Dentistry
  • Special Needs Dentistry
  • Removable prosthodontics and prosthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Paediatric dentistry
  • Orthodontics

Third Year DDS

The third year of the Doctor of Dental Surgery course is a comprehensive introduction to all dental specialties in a clinical setting. This means that we see patients at the Royal Dental hospital of Melbourne for the following specialties and are also introduced to primary care where we see emergency patients (e.g. toothache, broken denture, facial swelling).

Dental specialties include:

  • General practice – focus on diagnosis, treatment planning and conservative dentistry
  • Paediatric – working with children, treatment planning, fissure sealants and providing stainless steel crowns using Hall’s technique
  • Endodontics – completing root canal treatment, possible internal bleaching, referrals for re-treatment where required
  • Prosthodontics – preparing onlays and crowns, material selection and techniques
  • Periodontics – learning how to treat periodontal disease, referrals
  • Observations at oral medicine specialty clinics
  • Orthodontics case study

Over 2nd and 3rd year, we also write a research project which is a 3000-4000 word report completed with a group. For the lucky ones, this could even lead to publication.

Fourth Year DDS

The final year is a culmination of all the hard work put in over the last three years! There are little to no lectures except for 2 Back to Base weeks (5 days of lecture content and some assessments).

The entire year is made out of 9 clinical blocks – 4 weeks each. They include placements in community clinics (Banyule Community Clinic, Latrobe Community health centres), hospital rotations shadowing the maxillofacial surgeons and in rural towns (Shepparton, Cobram, Moe, Echuca). We also continue to work at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. It also included a research project that required us to assess rural dental clinical outcomes and present this over 30 minutes.

Whilst our assessments included OSCEs (clinical scenarios which requires our diagnosis, treatment options and management) and some written reflections, the largest assessment is a case presentation of a patient that we have completed treatment for in the past 2 years. Whilst I would love to show you the photos, I unfortunately can’t due to privacy!


man sitting on dental chair
Could be you!

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