Most commonly in final year, you will be required to present a poster of an interesting or unusual case. This is typically the first time you will have done a presentation and so in this post, we will look at some tips on choosing, designing and presenting your poster.
Generally, you will present your poster for 10 minutes, followed by a 5-10 minute session of questions. So what’s the most important thing? Choose a topic you are actually interested in! Choose something you can talk about and have a good knowledge about. If you have a keen knowledge in oral medicine, doing a poster about the restorative use of pins is not going to do you any favours! Spend some time on clinics and with tutors to identify good cases. Things you may want to consider:
- Oral Surgery – cases of cysts, difficult wisdom teeth extractions with nerve involvement, oro-antral communications and their management
- Oral Medicine – bullous diseases (pemphigus, pemphigoid, lichen planus), ulceration, neuralgia
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – cancer, trauma
- Paediatrics – hypodontia, amelo/dentinogenesis imperfecta, fluorosis, trauma
- Orthodontics – impacted canines, complex management
- Restorative – difficult endodontic management
Try to have a few choices if possible so that you can choose the best one once you’ve gathered all the information.
The next step is to design the basic layout of your poster. It needs to be professional but still colourful and attention-grabbing. The content of your poster needs to flow and follow some logic. The background, ideally, should be plain as to not distract from the content. Images should be used where appropriate and should be captioned and referenced in the text. You also need to limit the amount of text you place on the poster – be selective as you don’t want to overload your examiners! Additionally, by leaving some gaps in the content, you leave yourself open to questions that you can prepare for and expand whilst presenting. A very basic design is outlined below:
Once you’ve got a rough outline for your poster, you need to determine the best content to include. The content needs to highlight the key aspects of your case. First, you should address the basic history of the case:
- Presenting Complaint (PC) – this may include the source of referral, the patient’s age and a basic outline (usually in the patient’s own words) of what their complaint was.
- History of Presenting Complaint (HPC) – this is a basic history of the complaint they have presented with. It’s useful to follow things like SOCRATES at this point to include key information.
- Medical History (MH) – a description of current and past medical conditions of the patient. It is important to consider past conditions, especially in paediatric patients where development may be affected as well as patients such as those on bisphosphonates. It is also important to consider the patient’s current diagnosed conditions and how these may link to your case. A list of medications and allergies should also be included – these again should be linked to the case if appropriate.
- Dental History (DH) – a brief account of the patient’s dental experience is useful. Are they anxious? Do they have a heavily restored dentition? Are they a regular attender?
- Family History (FH) – this should be included for appropriate conditions e.g. for amelogenesis and dentinogenesis imperfecta where this may be relevant.
Then you need to progress to your assessment and investigations.
- Examination – discuss your assessment including extra-oral, intra-oral and any obvious findings. Include an assessment of the dentition, occlusal relationships (if relevant) and characteristics of lesions/masses (if relevant).
- Investigations and Results – you may want to divide this and have an area for initial investigations and then further investigations. In these areas you want to discuss any key investigations – radiographs, other imaging, biopsy results, vitality testing etc. Any relevant results should be included and there should be an obvious narrowing down of your differential diagnoses.
- Differential and Definitive Diagnosis – it may be useful to include some differential diagnoses prior to further investigations to give the examiner an idea of your thought process. You need to then be able to discuss how your investigations and clinical findings have helped you to come to a definitive diagnosis. This will then enable you to discuss the prognosis and treatment plan for the patient.
Finally, you want to focus on the management of the patient and a discussion:
- Treatment Plan – this should ideally be a staged treatment plan which you can discuss and explain. This may involve preventative measures, pharmacological management, radio/chemotherapy, surgery, restorative approaches etc. You can also discuss alternative treatment options and why they may not have been appropriate in your particular case. Generally, any treatment plan can be divided in to:
- Prevention/Elimination of risk factors
- Short-term management
- Long-term management
- Discussion – this can be included at the end of your poster and is an area you can highlight the key facts about the case you’re presenting as well as what you have learnt from this case. You may include information such as incidence, aetiology, treatment options and prognostic features. It is also important to include a few references but you need to choose these carefully. Consider the hierarchy of evidence when choosing your references and try to include high-level evidence e.g. systematic reviews. This highlights that you’ve carried out an evidence-based approach.
Amongst all this, do not forget to include some imaging or clinical photographs to help reflect your case. Ensure you reference these in the text of your poster.
Once your poster is ready, the next step is preparing to present it. Firstly make sure you are happy with the content and format of your poster. Then try to discuss it with your tutors or other staff members to see what they think. It may also be worth discussing any particular problems you faced or try to identify any particular questions you may be asked whilst presenting.
Ensure you’ve become familiar with your case, the content and the imaging. You need to be able to discuss this easily and without hesitation. You should be able to discuss any photographs or radiographs easily and make sure to look at all aspects e.g. don’t just focus on your particular lesion and ignore the fact the patient has multiple carious teeth. Look at the bigger picture! Once you’re happy with this, you need to practice presenting! The best people to practice with are your peers as they will also ask you relevant questions and may identify gaps in your knowledge.
Finally, try to consider questions that the examiners may ask you. Generally, these will be basic questions relating to the subject matter of your poster or the clinical case you are presenting. This why practicing with multiple people should highlight any questions and so you should be prepared for the actual presentation.