Looking for a way to combine your passions for helping others, fixing up a good set of canines, traveling, and learning about dentistry? Bite into dental volunteering abroad! Dentistry volunteer programs give dentists and dentists-to-be the opportunity to take part in rewarding education projects that give back to needy communities in a meaningful, long lasting way. Ditch that 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., day-to-day slump you’re in, and dive mouth-first into a world of culture and community outreach. Grab your favorite toothbrush, flash your pearly whites, and head abroad to make a difference worth smiling about.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Dentistry
Many people in developing nations suffer from poor dental hygiene and lack the knowledge necessary to combat preventable dental conditions. For many, dental issues make day-to-day tasks, such as eating, a challenge and negatively affect their ability to find work or feel self-confident. Through dental volunteering abroad, you can bring quality dental care to underprivileged individuals around the world. Dental volunteers may spend their time administering treatment, educating communities on preventative care, and contributing to an overall better understanding of dental health in schools, orphanages, remote villages, and many other locations and institutions.
Dental volunteers will also have the opportunity to experience new cultures and work with patients they may not otherwise get a chance to interact with, thereby making them more well rounded and culturally sensitive dentists (or dentistry students, dental hygienists, etc.).
With dentistry volunteer programs located all around the world, now is the perfect time to pursue dental volunteering abroad and see the world from a new perspective.
Chances are good that you can combine a place you have always wanted to travel to with a strong dental volunteering program, so you can see the world and help people in need at the same time. If you can’t decide where you’d like to volunteer abroad or need some help getting your search narrowed down, check out the following most popular locations for dentistry volunteer work abroad:
Mexico is an excellent choice for students hoping to expand their Spanish language skills and for those seeking for real world application of their Spanish skills. Dental volunteers are in demand in across México. But, generally, dentistry volunteer programs in Mexico are short term, ranging anywhere from two to six weeks in length.
Sri Lanka. A tiny island nation off the southern coast of India, those who choose Sri Lanka for dental volunteering abroad will find an immense amount of need for outreach and education. Dental volunteers in Sri Lanka typically travel around to various rural communities, working with different age groups and sharing information on all aspects of dental health. As a first time dentistry volunteer, duties may also include shadowing and observing dental staff.
Tanzania. Dental volunteers in Tanzania can typically find themselves volunteering in dental clinics, either in Dar es Salaam or the capital city of Arusha. Many volunteers find themselves supporting dental education, helping to facilitate outreach programs and visiting schools and orphanages to teach kids about proper dental hygiene.
Jamaica. Volunteer in dental projects abroad on the beautiful Caribbean island of Jamaica and you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of observation based clinical work. The majority of children in rural communities can’t afford sufficient dental care (if any), and therefore have often never had any type of dental care or treatment, which can create quite an inspiring challenge for international volunteers. Dental volunteers in Jamaica usually work hands on with dental outreach teams to provide the necessary services to rural communitie, educating locals as they go. Those who participate in dental volunteering in Jamaica often feel they are making a real difference in the communities they work, sparking change everywhere they go.
Dentistry Volunteer Programs Abroad
Those who decide to volunteer abroad in dentistry should take care to select a program that will fulfill all their goals. Most importantly, look at what the average responsibilities and day-to-day tasks are for volunteers.You’ll want to choose a volunteer program that fits well with your interests in dental volunteering abroad. While there are many different ways to become a dental volunteer abroad, there are essentially three major categories:
Dental volunteer programs based in dental clinics can range anywhere from two to three week periods to longer, month(s)-long stays. Individuals who want to participate in dental volunteering abroad for longer durations should consider factors such as: housing, financial support, and culture sharing. Common prerequisites to volunteer in a dental clinic abroad may include early level anatomy or biology, certifications in basic dentistry from your home country, or dentistry work experience.
Clinical work is one of the most common opportunities for international dentistry. Many clinics are smaller, sometimes semi-mobile units, that can house an influx of patients at any given time. Set up so that members of the community and outlying towns can come visit the clinic for help, operating out of a clinic allows for a great base of operations. Dental volunteers in these placement will be expected to hit the ground running and adapt to the needs of the clinic and the community.
Community outreach and education This track is geared more toward traveling around your host country and promoting proper dental hygiene or providing dental education to communities. Volunteers should be good at meeting and interfacing with community members and leaders. While you will have a “home base,” there will be lots of additional travel involved and some of the work may get a little repetitive. Dental education and community outreach placements are some of the most important forms of dental volunteering abroad.
Hospital work is similar to clinical work, except on a larger scale. Dental volunteering abroad at a hospital means assuming an even larger scope of responsibilities. Less mobile than a clinic, dental volunteers in these placements will become part of an existing organizational structure while working in partnership with a local hospital. Not surprisingly, these are the roles that require the greatest knowledge and experience before arrival. Of course, a good deal of on-site training is given and a major perk of dental volunteering abroad is the chance to expand your understanding and competency with a diverse range of patients. However, volunteers should also be prepared for a typical fast paced and unpredictable hospital work environment.
Benefits & Challenges
Minimal Resources. For individuals coming from clinics or universities with a wealth of supplies and resources, clinics and hospitals around the world may come as a surprise, as funding and equipment are not always widely available. This means dental volunteers will always need to be flexible and assist local staff in coming up with creative solutions to problems, while, most of the time, dealing with less than state-of-the-art equipment.
Invaluable Experience. Sure, it can be said about anything, but when it comes to the field of dentistry, there is no resume builder quite like personal growth and learning at the international level. Dental volunteers will be asked to assume numerous roles with varying responsibilities at any given moment, so they will likely return home with an incredible amount of experience with new techniques, practices and methods.
Contacts, Contacts, Contacts. A successful volunteer-ship abroad could spell great things for your future in the field of dentistry. Perhaps a professor you work with abroad will ask you to come work with them again in the future or maybe you’ll meet someone whose practice needs a new hygienist or intern. Connections made while proving your work ethic through dental volunteering abroad can be invaluable tools for your future career success.
At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words, and nothing speaks louder than proving your competence, passion, and facility in your field than becoming a dental volunteer abroad.