Don’t have a lot of extra time that you don’t know how to use? Nope, neither do I! As a predental student, I had almost every minute planned out as I carefully balanced my time between studying and attending classes, workshops, club meetings, etc. With so little time to spare, why would
giving back be a good idea? Six major rewards come to mind:
1. Get in the groove of giving your time to
It may seem like a career in dentistry is light years away, but it isn't! The six years between my freshman year of college and now have passed in the blink of an eye. Many students (including myself) felt that focusing on grades and research, and maintaining sanity by spending time with friends—all
of which are activities centered on the individual rather than on others—was how we would succeed. But, when you are a dentist, you will be taking care of patients throughout the day and will have little time to focus on yourself. If you don’t want to feel tired at the end of each day after seeing patients all
day at work, make addressing the concerns of others and improving their lives second nature by participating in service opportunities now.
2. Learn what types of dentistry interest you.Are you wondering if you will like certain types of dentistry more than others? By gaining volunteer experience in various fields before you get to dental school, you will see what different types of practice settings and specialties
would be a good fit for you in the future!
3. Improve the oral health of the country. It is no secret that many Americans do not have access to affordable, convenient and consistent dental care. We each have a role to play in solving this inequity, but none of us can do this alone. Consider joining a local
dental society to find ways to partner with others to improve access to care and to better the lives of people within your own community. For example, offer to volunteer in a community health clinic that offers oral health care—or, volunteer with organizations outside the field of dentistry. Working with
groups such as Habitat for Humanity or Rebuilding Together will open your eyes to the struggles that many of your future patients will have in their lives, beyond their oral health concerns.
4. Increase your overall life satisfaction. At the end of the day, do money or test scores comfort you? If you’re like me, a good grade will definitely brighten your day, but being pleased with my grades isn’t the same thing as feeling like I’ve done something meaningful with
my short time on this earth. Am I getting a little deep? I don’t think this idea is too far-fetched. If you help someone as a mentor, volunteer or tutor, you will likely find that your satisfaction with life increases and your self-worth grows.
5. Establish a reputation for community
involvement. Being active in a positive way in your community will help develop your reputation as someone who is caring, gentle and a good listener. These are the qualities people look for in their health care providers. This is vital once you are practicing, but being involved in your community, even as a
student, is important. Not only will your history of helping others make your future patients feel comfortable under your care, but your experience will be a good talking point in dental school interviews.
the profession. Whether you are a predental student, a dental student or a dentist, you can have a positive impact on younger individuals. By being a mentor, you can shape others’ opinions of dentistry and help them make informed decisions. The leadership and inspiration you can provide as they find their
places within the field of dentistry is vital for the future of the profession. In addition, as an advocate for dentistry, when you choose to speak up on topics you are passionate about, such as affordability of care and water fluoridation, you can impact the oral health of your future patients.
As a predental student, I served as a teacher’s assistant, tutored, volunteered in homeless shelters and in dental clinics, organized the rebuilding of a home and volunteered countless hours to several organizations that shaped my character, my goals for the future and the ways in which I
interact with others. As a dental student, I have continued these efforts and serve as an advocate for oral health in many states and on a national level. There is no wrong way to give back. Don’t feel you need to limit your efforts to the dental field, either. If you choose to give back, you can’t go wrong!
Brush and Floss,