As a dentist, you have gained specialty expertise that most others don’t have. Many practicing dentists choose to volunteer their skills to help communities at home and abroad. There are nearly as many benefits to dental volunteerism as there are needy patients in the world, as you will read about below. If you have been searching for ways to give back, to connect with like - minded colleagues, to gain new training opportunities and to strengthen the health of your community, consider one or more of the following dental volunteer opportunities.
Equity in Oral Health
Patients may deal with several kinds of obstacles when seeking dental care, which results in dental inequities. These obstacles might vary from issues with dental health literacy, child care, and transportation to difficulty locating a dentist who accepts new patients or Medicaid yearly cap limitations. People who did not see a dentist on a regular basis as children may be more fearful to see a dentist as an adult. Another common obstacle to oral health is that, after retiring or losing a job, some people may have lost their dental insurance.
In fact, in 2021 the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute released data that looked at racial inequities in oral health. The statistics also revealed dental care consumption across the U.S. population, revealing that Hispanics and Blacks are the most likely to experience economic barriers to dental care across all age categories.
Dental volunteerism is a proven way to address oral health equity issues in local communities, in the country, and abroad. It can be practiced by both new and seasoned professional dentists, as well as by dental students who are not yet licensed to practice.
Dental Volunteer Opportunities in Your Community
You often don’t have to travel very far to donate your time as a dentist. Although dental volunteerism is usually done for altruistic reasons, volunteering in your local community can raise your profile and increase your patient list too. Serving outside your office door can also bring local oral health inequity to light. Here are some ways you can volunteer as a dentist without traveling too far.
Be a Guest Lecturer
Dental schools are often happy to have guest lecturers speak to their students. You could reach out to area dental schools and offer to talk about overcoming obstacles, the importance of volunteerism once they get established, or other relevant topics. Don’t limit yourself to current dental students, either. Approach local high schools and make yourself available for speeches regarding dentistry as a career option. You’ll be inspiring new generations.
Host a Student on Career Day
Offer to host one or two students on career day at a local high school. Have them arrive at your office and shadow you and your staff as you conduct your business. Make yourself available as a mentor to any student who is enthusiastic about pursuing a career in dentistry.
Volunteer at a Community Health Center
Contact your local community health centers and volunteer a few times a month by offering free or low - cost dental care. Be sure to consult with your attorney and professional insurance representative to ensure legal compliance and insurance coverage for any work done at a community health center.
Dental Volunteer Opportunities Around the Globe
There are opportunities for dentists to volunteer time and treatment around the world. Dedicated programs similar to Doctors Without Borders make it easy to volunteer abroad as a practicing dentist.
Note that, before practicing abroad, it might be a good idea to take a look at your dental malpractice insurance, and check with your provider to see if being outside of the United States may impact your protection.
Every year, Operation Smile goes on more than 100 medical missions, each one unique. This well - established organization provides medical equipment in some of the regions where it operates, and it sends specialized medical volunteers in others. Regardless of location, the organization collaborates with the local community to develop solutions that provide the greatest possible level of care. When working with Operation Smile, you will be in good hands. Their volunteer program is well organized. Your return flight and accommodation are both paid for by Operation Smile. You would perform specialized treatments and develop equipment that helps patients achieve better surgical outcomes and general health. Their volunteer dentists treat both surgical and nonsurgical patients. Extractions, obturators, and other techniques to enhance the intra - oral function, speech, and aesthetics of our patients may be used. The volunteer dentists also give patients and their families preventive and home care recommendations throughout the program.
Global Dental Relief
Global Dental Relief's mission is to bring free dental care to children in six international locations, plus Kentucky. When you volunteer with Global Dental Relief, you and the other volunteers work in collaboration with other local organizations already on the ground. You’ll work in field clinics inside schools and government buildings. Each dental clinic has six or seven dental chairs and is staffed with between 12 and 18 dental volunteers. The clinics are typically open up to nine hours per day, five or six days a week.
Dental Volunteer Opportunities to Assist Other Dentists
As a dental volunteer, you can inspire colleagues and help to instill leadership. For example:
ACE Panel Clinical Evaluators
The goal of the ADA's ACE Panel (ADA Clinical Evaluators) is to build a community of dentists who will inform future ACE Panel Report goals. The objective is to get more timely and accurate input on the latest dental technologies and materials. The program is 100% voluntary, and no time commitment is required. You can withdraw your participation at any time.
ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership
The American Dental Association's Institute for Diversity in Leadership “aims to improve the leadership abilities of dentists from historically underrepresented racial, ethnic, and/or gender groups. There is no cost to apply, and any active, licensed dentists in the United States, regardless of ADA membership status, are eligible to participate. Ideal applicants will have a track record of leadership in their dental associations or communities.” Assignments do not have to be claimed. You can accept or decline volunteer opportunities as your schedule allows.
Dental Volunteer Opportunities for Dental Students
Dental volunteerism for students offers some surprising benefits beyond the actual services provided. These benefits include the opportunity to discover where your expertise is most needed in the community and to personally witness the value that is placed on dental professionals. In short, dental volunteerism for students can validate your original decision to become a dentist.
Volunteer With Local Dentist Offices
Dental students may have the opportunity to volunteer with local professional dentists. This not only gives you a chance to witness a professional dental practice firsthand but also expands your professional network. Reach out to area dentists to see whether they need dental student volunteers.
School of Dentistry Volunteers
Your local school of dentistry may have volunteer opportunities that you can take advantage of. Talk to your administrative faculty, professors, and even fellow students to find out what volunteer opportunities might exist. When you volunteer as a student of dentistry, the benefits go both ways. You can help your community and also enrich your own career path.
Volunteerism is a great way to give back to your local area and/or the global community. Before embarking on any volunteer opportunity, it’s worth repeating that you should always check beforehand with your malpractice insurance carrier. Most medical insurance providers have riders that can be added to cover your services on a volunteer basis, but you need to notify them ahead of time. Many professionals find it so emotionally rewarding that they return to the same volunteering opportunities again and again. Healthcare is something that everyone needs and through volunteering, the access to that healthcare becomes more within reach for everyone.
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