Dental professionals are a caring group, not only in our own practices but also in our communities and beyond. Giving back through dental volunteer work benefits patients in need and can also be personally fulfilling. If you're interested in volunteering your time and skills, there is a never-ending need for care around the world.
One important realm of dental volunteer work is teaching children about oral health. Programs like Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures give you the opportunity to provide screenings and education to underserved children worldwide. Mobile dentistry opens doors in areas where access to care may be limited by poverty or location, and may be the only dental education and oral health screening some children get. Offering these children lessons in good oral care at a young age can help them toward a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Service trips welcome dental volunteers to provide care in remote and often impoverished areas. Global coordinators, such as the ADA Foundation International Programs, offer trips focused on disaster relief, education and general care. Dentists Without Borders fosters cooperation between local and visiting dental teams to provide basic restorative and periodontal care, extractions, professional cleanings and fluoride treatments in countries from Nepal to El Salvador.
Everyone has started out fresh in a new career at some point, and navigating the challenges can be difficult. Mentoring another dental professional or dental student can help instill confidence in someone who needs it.
You can also volunteer to be a positive role model for children or young adults in a local school or youth organization. For example, the U.K.'s STEM Ambassador Program recruits volunteers to mentor children with an interest in a career in science and technology. Both mentee and mentor can learn from each other and create a lasting bond.
Oral surgery is another global area of need. Operation Smile relies on volunteer dentists and oral surgeons to provide care globally to children with cleft lip and palate and craniofacial deformities. For many children, the life-changing surgery allows them to eat, speak and live normally after healing. If you want to serve affected children in your region, there are also local programs, such as the Indian Dental Association's Healing Smile Foundation that provides cleft lip and palate care.
Besides volunteering your time, you can give back by donating or fundraising for an individual or organization in need. Your cause of choice also does not have to be strictly dental. Do you care about protecting the environment? Besides recycling at your practice, you can raise money to plant trees. Are you an animal lover? Your dental clinic can collect food and bedding for a local animal shelter.
A commitment to volunteering doesn't mean you have to donate thousands or travel far and wide to make a change. Sharing your time, expertise or experience leads to personal fulfillment and makes a positive impact on others in need.