Whether you are a dental student or retiree, or your career falls somewhere in between, you have countless opportunities to contribute your time and skills to make a difference in the lives of people who otherwise could not access or afford oral health care. Your contribution can span from one hour in your local community to two weeks in a remote village in Nepal. Your impact can surpass all your expectations.
Give Back Locally
Giving back through volunteering and providing community service can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your career. Even contributing an hour to speak to local preschoolers about the importance of brushing can make a difference.
- Give Kids A Smile® is a one-day event at thousands of locations across the U.S. that provides free dental care to children from low-income families who otherwise would not receive any preventive or restorative care, or any oral health education.
- Missions of Mercy, through America's Dentists Care Foundation, are events coordinated at the local level to provide basic dental care such as fillings, extractions and cleanings, with some offering limited lab work.
- Donated Dental Services (DDS) program, coordinated by the Dental Lifeline Network, enables you to provide meaningful care to some of America's most vulnerable people.
- State or local dental societies are great resources to find volunteer opportunities within your community.
- Local community health centers provide an interdisciplinary approach to patient care, which includes oral health care. Federally qualified health centers provide care to individuals regardless of their inability to pay. You can find a community health center near you by checking findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.
- Schools provide a great way to give back to the local community. Visit a preschool class during February, National Children's Dental Health Month, to reinforce the importance of oral health. Or talk at a local high school during a career fair. Consider providing care within local school-based dental programs.
Give Back Globally
If you are ready to commit one week or more of your time and immerse yourself in remarkable cultures, the ADA's Health Volunteers Overseas Dental Education Program offers extraordinary opportunities to make significant contributions to underserved populations beyond your community and U.S. borders.
- Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) is a private non-profit organization committed to improving health care in developing countries through training and education. By emphasizing teaching, the HVO Dental Education Programs, which are sponsored by the ADA, aim to create an indigenous group of trained health workers who can teach others. This builds a sustainable program that will benefit the population long after the volunteer has departed.
- ADA International Volunteer Website outlines valuable information to assist you with all aspects of volunteering overseas – from preparing for your trip to returning home. And with an extensive inventory of organizations that offer international volunteer opportunities to dental professionals, you're sure to find a program for you.