1. Rubber dam
Rubber dam is your friend, learn how to use it. The average time it should take to isolate a whole quadrant is about two minutes. The Kerr Soft clamp will fit 90% of molars and the standard premolar clam will do the bicuspids. Widgets and floss ligatures for anterior teeth. No matter if you are doing one tooth or multiple teeth isolate the whole quadrant you are working on. This only takes a few extra seconds and gives you a much larger field in which to work. The area is dry and the tongue is out the way letting you sit back, relax and focus on the restorations.
Get a camera and start taking pictures. A DSLR, macro lens and ring flash. Photography is great for patient records, showing before and after work and is essential in tooth whitening and any larger restorative cases which involve communication with the laboratory.
Get yourselves some loupes and a light. Everything becomes so much easier with at least 2.5x magnification and an extra light source. With loupes you do get what you pay for. It is worth spending a bit on money on a pair of loupes from a trusted company as some of the cheap ones online are intended for modelling and prolonged use of loupes not set for your eyes can cause you to strain your eyes.
Learn how to take a good impression. Simple things like a finger sweep of alginate across the labial and occlusal surfaces before you take an impression will reduce the likelihood or air blows. Inspect your margins. If you can’t see the margin in the impression neither will your lab tec. Good lighting and magnification are essential when inspecting impressions after they have been taken.
5. Invest in yourself
Try new things and go on courses. It may seem expensive at the time but you will easily make back the money you spent on the course with your new found skills. Building on your CV during your foundation year is an excellent way to stand apart from the crowd when applying for your first associate job.