Across the United States, many dental schools participate in dental outreach programs. These programs allow you to make an impact in your community, while gaining valuable clinical and interprofessional skills. What are these programs, and how can you make the most of your time participating during dental school?
What are dental outreach programs?
Due to high costs and other socioeconomic factors, many individuals in the United States are unable to undergo routine dental care. This lack of care can contribute to long-term oral health issues for millions of Americans. Dental outreach programs are designed to deliver comprehensive dental care to underserved communities throughout the country, and in some cases in other countries. In these programs, pre-dental and dental students conduct hands-on clinical care under the guidance of faculty and in accordance with their level of training. Students can acquire valuable clinical experience while making a difference in the health of their communities.
How do you get involved in community outreach?
Many dental schools have organized community outreach programs. If your school has not, there are still many ways to get involved in outreach.
Reach out to faculty members
Many faculty members at your school may be conducting research in the community. Meeting with them will help you uncover volunteer opportunities you did not consider before.
Visit community health clinics
Local community health clinics often provide many resources for underserved communities. Inquire about dental volunteer positions for dental volunteer positions.
Learn language basics
Communicating with patients is important, even if you are still early in your dental school education. Take the time to learn key words and phrases in other languages to make it easier to speak with your patients.
Be an advocate
You may need to take the initiative. Reach out to your dental school administration to ask them to establish opportunities with community health centers.
Connect with underserved community members
Depending on your community, population needs will vary. The best way to determine these needs is by reaching out. Visit local pre-schools, high schools, or other community centers to see how you can help schedule appointments.
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