If you are a dentist and looking for career options, strongly consider volunteering for an international dental team. Continuing to use your dental skills to benefit others will be both rewarding and satisfying.  Whether you go for a month or a year, the time spent helping others will keep you relevant and needed. Opportunities are available in Africa, South America, Nepal, and Southeast Asia routinely.  Additional missions to countries throughout the world are common. Language skills are desirable but not required in most circumstances.

First you need to seriously evaluate your present capabilities.  If you are permanently injured or ill, you might find your ability to practice dentistry compromised.  MAYBE NOT.  If you have completed rehabilitation efforts and are recovering, you may be fully capable to practice.  Even if you cannot practice at full speed or do every procedure, your skills are likely light years ahead of what is available in many third world countries.

Start with research into the opportunities that are available. Some teaching positions are available overseas that do not require clinical practice.  For those who are severely injured or disabled, this may be a way to continue on in the dental field.   Many positions will require you to maintain an active US license to practice dentistry.  Most programs will cover your malpractice risks.  Transportation to and from the sites is sometimes a covered benefit along with room and board. This is not always the case and be prepared to invest in your efforts.  There are many programs available for you to research opportunities to serve abroad.  For starters check these programs.

These are just a few of the many organizations that provide opportunities to help others with your dental skills and training.   Other opportunities may be explored through your church.   The LDS, Seventh-day Adventist, and Catholic Churches have many programs nationwide.   Many religious institutions have formal programs that offer you chances to help others worldwide.

These are exciting opportunities and most participants find these adventures the most rewarding aspects of their dental careers.   You can work selected hours and dates.  Since you are a volunteer, you have control and are able to map out a plan that works for you and your family.  Consider including your spouse on the adventure.   This may augment your overall retirement plan or just supplement your active practice of dentistry in the US.

You will need to commit yourself to this effort.  It will not be easy but very rewarding.  Be prepared for arranging complex travel plans and getting yourself prepared for service in challenging conditions.  Ensure you are medical fit for service away from immediate access to first world health care.  Since you are a volunteer, the amount of time you donate is entirely up to you within the constraints of your sponsoring organization.

The ADA hosts seminars on overseas volunteer teams during its annual meeting each  year.   The ADA website (internationalvolunteer.ada.org)  has links to many organizations in desperate need for dental volunteers.  Consider taking some of your staff with you and be rewarded with appreciation and thanks.  The ADA foundation sponsors HVO (HEALTH VOLUNTEERS OVERSEAS) and can provide detailed information  opportunities and positions available around the world.

As you start your research into possible positions , carefully record the background and requirements of your selected sponsoring organization.   Look into the treatment goals of your team and make sure they are keeping with your expectations.   Be aware of the dental needs of your prospective patients and be prepared to provide the services needed most.  Carefully document the equipment and dental supply needs and assist in preparation of detailed lists during the planning phase of your preparation.   Prepare for varied living conditions and get ready for a challenge in your lifestyle.   This is just a part of the value you will place on your new experiences to come.   Finally, fully prepare for your trip by making detailed transportation plans and getting any need vaccinations.  Above all, be flexible, and go with the flow.  Part of the adventure and reward is the unknown.

For those of you that are still early in the decision-making process due to injury or illness, look to our posting on the ten steps to survive disability. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. We are ready to help in your transition, recovery, and return to practice . Be sure to take lots of pictures, and we will post them for the enjoyment and motivation of other dental volunteers.

HAVE A GREAT TRIP AND SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES!

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