Volunteer opportunities for pre-dental and dental students

August 22, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Clinical shadowing hours abroad for pre dental students Volunteering is a good idea for both pre-dental and dental students to learn new skills and help people in the process. Although you may be volunteering to help other people, you will also benefit from the experience. Volunteer work often provides a chance to meet new people and be exposed to a culturally diverse environment. There are plenty of opportunities and benefits to volunteering, either in the United States or internationally. 

Benefits of volunteering for dental students 

If you are a pre-dental or dental student, there are many reasons to consider becoming involved in volunteer work. For example, as a pre-dental student, volunteer work can help you learn more about the dental field through being exposed to different specialties. You may have an opportunity to observe all types of dental procedures and talk with professionals in the field.

Similar to medical school admissions committees, dental schools also take volunteer work into consideration when selecting students. Volunteer experience can be a positive on a dental school application.

There are also several other reasons to consider participating in volunteer activity as a pre-dental or dental student. Volunteer work is a chance to be part of a worthwhile cause while improving your skills, such as communication and teamwork.

Volunteering also provides students a chance to do something different from their day-to-day activities, especially if you volunteer abroad. Volunteering internationally also gives you a great opportunity to connect with people from other cultures.

When you work as a volunteer for an organization that provides dental treatment, it also allows you to experience what it is like to provide dental care outside of an office setting.

Volunteer opportunities

Finding the right volunteer opportunity may take a little research, but it is important to consider all your options in order to find a program that is right for you. Volunteer opportunities for dental students may be located through professional dental associations, such as the American Student Dental Association and the American Dental Association. 

You may also ask an advisor at your college or professors at your dental school if they know of any volunteer opportunities for dental students. Calling local dentists and explaining you are a student interested in volunteering is also an option. In addition, consider some of the ideas and organizations below, which may provide good experience for dental students.

Local Opportunities: If you are interested in volunteering locally, consider locating a free dental clinic or mobile dental unit. Many free or mobile clinics do not have a large budget and would be happy to have dental students help out. The duties may vary widely and may include taking medical histories, stocking supplies and educating patients on dental care.  

Give Kids a Smile: This program was started by the American Dental Association in order to provide dental services to underserved children throughout the United States. When the program first started in 2003, it was a one-day event. It has evolved to include various events throughout the year. There may be several opportunities for students to get involved. It may be a good option for students who are only available periodically.

International Smile Power:  International Smile Power is a nonprofit agency that provides dental care to underserved people in various countries throughout the world. In addition to dental outreach around the world, they also operate an outreach program for children in Seattle, Washington. International Smile Power utilizes both dental professionals and those without dental experience. The organization sends volunteer teams to destinations abroad, such as Haiti, Mexico and Bolivia. Responsibilities will vary depending on whether you are an undergrad or already in dental school. For example, students may train people how to perform proper dental hygiene and other preventive care. International Smile Power may be a good program for students who want to volunteer internationally.

United Planet: United Planet has many volunteer opportunities for students interested in the healthcare field, including dentistry. Teams of dental volunteers travel internationally to countries including Peru and Ghana. Dental volunteer quests range from one to 12 weeks. Students may perform various duties, such as cleaning teeth and educating people on basic oral hygiene.    


There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing which type of volunteer work to participate in. First, decide when you will do your volunteer work. Some students do several short volunteer jobs throughout their undergraduate career, while others volunteer for one program for several months. Some students volunteer when they take a year off after earning their bachelor’s degree and before going to dental school. Participating in volunteer activities during summer break is also an option. Deciding when the time is right to volunteer may help you determine what type of work to do.

Consider how much time you have to give. Some volunteer programs may require you commit to a certain number of hours each week or month. For instance, certain volunteer opportunities may require a full-time commitment for several weeks, while others may only require a few hours a month. Consider how much time you spend doing school work and participating in extracurricular activities. Give careful thought to how much time you can spare.

Think about your goals. Ask yourself if you are volunteering to give back to your community or to beef up your resume. Are you hoping to gain experience working with patients or to experience a new culture? Determining what you are hoping to gain from the experience may help you decide what program to get involved in.

Decide if you would prefer to volunteer internationally or locally. Different programs offer volunteer opportunities in different locations. If you plan to volunteer internationally, make sure you take appropriate steps to safeguard your health and wellbeing. For example, depending on what country you are traveling to, you may need to have certain immunizations before you leave.

Before signing up with any volunteer agency, make sure you understand the type of work you will be doing. Clear communication from the start will help prevent misunderstandings later in your volunteer assignment.