Volunteering is an excellent way to develop two important pieces of any job search: experience and connections. Experience in your career area demonstrates skill and knowledge, while professional connections may be a source for references, career opportunities, and inside information about the job market. Volunteering for credible organizations can strengthen job applications and distinguish you from other applicants.
HVO is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve health around the world by donating medical services and educating local communities. Volunteer opportunities vary in length from one week to four months. HVO manages 80 sites in 26 different countries, including Tanzania, Cambodia, and Nicaragua.
Some sites accept dental students/residents, pairing them with certified volunteers who will oversee their training. Training is focused on topics relevant to each volunteer site. Specifically, students learn about local diseases and health conditions, procedures and skills (including prevention tactics) relevant to the area, and clinical techniques that can be practiced with available tools.
GDR provides free dental care and oral health education to disadvantaged children in countries such as Nepal, Guatemala, and Kenya. The clinics are hosted in schools, orphanages, and village medical centers. Volunteers usually work in teams for 8–9 hours a day for 5–6 days. Dentist, hygienist, and assistant positions are available.
Give Kids A Smile Day is a program established through the American Dental Association (ADA) to provide underprivileged children with dental care. Since its debut in 2003, Give Kids A Smile has grown from a single day in February to a nation-wide program with events that run year-round. Services provided include cleanings, sealants, fillings, and extractions. 1,500+ events are implemented throughout the year across the country.
Run by America’s Dentists Care Foundation (ADCF), Missions of Mercy offers dental services and education to those who cannot otherwise afford it. Dental volunteers perform fillings, extractions, cleanings, and some lab work. The frequency of events and types of patients served varies depending on the state. 28 missions are currently established across the country, including California, Michigan, and Florida.
Volunteer positions available for dental professionals include dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental students, and X-ray technicians. Make sure to check the website for positions specific to your local mission.
DDS is run by the Dental Lifeline Network, and is endorsed by the ADA and many other well-known dental organizations. These dentists volunteer their time and services to aid vulnerable members of the community, including the disabled, elderly, and medically fragile. DDS coordinates and funds the initial treatment, but dentists may opt to continue seeing their patients for free or at a discount if they so choose. In deference to the time their volunteers are already giving, the program does not require any paperwork other than a report of procedures performed and how much they would typically cost.
DDS has a presence in every state, with more than 15,000 dentist and 3,600 laboratory volunteers nationwide. In 2014, they treated about 7,300 patients.
The Department of Health and Human Services manages local health centers that provide health services at prices that each patient can afford, regardless of whether they have insurance. They are found in almost all cities and many rural areas. Dental professionals seeking volunteer opportunities close to home may want to contact their local health center.
State and local dental societies may have volunteer opportunities in their own programs, or be able to recommend alternate options. Contacting one of these groups is a great way to develop a network within your own community. Check out the ADA’s list of state and local dental associations to find one near you.