Words From Your Peers

Pre-Dental Opportunities In College - Volunteering for Dental Nonprofits

Posted by Tiffany Lin on June 01, 2014

You’re taking the appropriate pre-dental coursework in school and you’ve shadowed the local dentist down the street. So, what other enriching pre-dental opportunities can you seek?

Let me tell you about what I did.

My growing interest in dentistry prompted me to start researching dental nonprofits. I learned about Smiles on Wings, a non-profit that provides dental care and education to medically underserved populations in Thailand. And to my surprise, I discovered that the founder of Smiles on Wings owned the dental practice right behind my former high school. Two weeks later, I was sitting across the Executive Director and we spent the next hour flipping through silly photographs of children from previous dental missions. Needless to say, I was hooked and quite excited with my new internship offer.

Throughout the fall semester, I researched grant proposals, designed and programmed fundraising events, and maintained our website and social media pages. During the Smiles on Wings winter mission, I followed our blog closely and decided that I couldn’t pass up the next opportunity offered before me. I booked a flight to Thailand just six short months away for the next mission. Over the summer, I continued my volunteer work with Smiles on Wings and also worked at a dental practice to familiarize myself with the basics. From the sterilization of instruments to assisting restorative procedures like fillings and extractions, I eagerly prepared for our upcoming dental mission.

In Thailand, I had the opportunity to act as a dental assistant to two exceptional dentists (both founders of separate dental nonprofits) and befriended some fourth-year dental students from the UK. Interacting with dental students, dentists, and other health professionals was incredibly insightful to the dental profession. In addition to dental care, we focused on providing a comprehensive dental education to both children and adults at numerous schools and orphanages. Preventative dental care is often overlooked when access to adequate food, housing, and education is also of primary concern. But it was our mission to see that healthcare wasn’t forgotten.

As I continue down the pre-dental pathway, I hope my connection to Smiles on Wings only grows. So whether you’re just beginning to explore dentistry as a potential career, or if you’ve known you were going to be a dentist before you learned how to walk, I encourage you to get involved beyond shadowing at your local dental practice. Research volunteer clinics and nonprofit groups that serve medically underserved communities and see how you can help.

You can also speak to other pre-dental students at your university and ask if your pre-health societies would be interested in organizing a volunteer health mission. Volunteer your weekend at a local dental clinic or organize a health mission abroad over winter or spring break. Go out there and explore!

*Original post published 7/9/2012

About Tiffany Lin:

Tiffany Lin

Major: Bio-Engineering - Senior

Gemstone Program

University of Maryland, College Park