In dental hygiene school, dental volunteer opportunities may be incorporated in the curriculum. When you enter the "real world," it can be challenging to find the time and appropriate opportunity to volunteer. As an RDH, your skills are not only valuable to your patients, but to your community, too. Volunteering individually, as a practice or even with a group of dental hygiene friends can be an extremely rewarding experience, as well as a valuable team bonding experience. The following are some examples of volunteer opportunities for dental hygienists.
Annual Volunteer Events
With a busy work schedule and the demands of everyday life, you may find you cannot volunteer on a regular basis. There are many programs that take place annually across the country and do not require a major time commitment.
In 2003, the American Dental Association (ADA) launched Give Kids a Smile (GKAS). This event takes place each year on the first Friday in February. Since the date is planned out well in advance, you can plan your work schedule accordingly. There are dental hygiene schools, dental offices and nonprofit organizations across the country that host GKAS. Free oral screenings, education and treatment are provided to underserved children through GKAS. You can volunteer alongside an established host or your office could host a GKAS event.
The Special Olympics hosts events that take place across the country. During these events they offer a program called Special Smiles. Special Smiles provides Special Olympics athletes with free oral screenings and education on proper brushing and flossing techniques. To find a dental volunteer opportunity near you, visit the Special Olympics website. First identify the event closest to you, and then you will find instructions on how to volunteer.
Volunteer Within Your Community
Another dental volunteer opportunity is to get involved with your local nonprofit oral health care center. For example, KinderSmile is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) located in Bloomfield, NJ. They provide uninsured/underserved children with access to dental care and education for children and their families. KinderSmile also has a Perinatal Wellness Program where services are provided to pregnant women and new mothers, including oral examination and oral health education. KinderSmile is just one example of a local nonprofit where dental hygienists can donate their time.
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures offers nine mobile vans that are equipped to provide oral screenings for children ages 3 to 12. The vans are based in hub cities, and they travel to underserved communities. With the support of volunteers, Bright Smiles vans are able to offer free oral screenings, referrals when necessary and take-home learning materials. Click this link to learn more about how you can volunteer with Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures in your community.
Organizations such as KinderSmile and Bright Smiles, Bright Futures rely on volunteers so they can continue to provide care for children who are underserved. Dental hygienists are highly valued within these programs because they provide oral health care screenings, preventative care and oral health education to patients. An organization like KinderSmile may even award free CE credits when you volunteer.
International Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering with an international dental mission could be a very rewarding experience! As a dental hygienist you would have the opportunity to provide oral health care to underserved people in other parts of the world. Generally these international programs provide two types of oral health care: emergency treatment and oral health education. The ADA has a list of international dental volunteer opportunities available on its website.
- Even when you have a busy schedule, there are ways for dental hygienists to volunteer.
- Volunteers are highly valuable to nonprofit oral health care centers.
- There are many avenues to volunteer your skills as a dental hygienist.
Why It's Valuable
As an RDH, your skills are not only essential to your patients, but to your community, as well. Search for opportunities you believe in and consider donating your time to patients in need, either by yourself, with friends or with the whole practice. There are many organizations locally, nationally and abroad that will welcome your expertise.