Have time, will travel

One of the great advantages of being a dentist is the freedom that your career provides you. As the majority of dentists will end up working for themselves in practice as a principal or associate, there is often a lot of flexibility around when you take your holidays and how long they may last. While this may conjure up images of long weeks laying on a pristine beach or trekking through wild jungle, a few thoughts may turn to what you can do for the greater good with this time.

Volunteering is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with lots of people interested in giving something back to the developing world by spending a portion of their hard-earned holidays working on community projects. Dentists have a skill that can help the world’s poor in a very practical way and now there are ways of matching up your skills with the most vulnerable people.

Of course, going to the developing world and giving hands-on help isn’t the only way of improving oral health care in those regions. Becoming a fundraiser for specific dental charities can also make a big difference. Whether this is by encouraging your colleagues to pay to wear fancy dress for a day or by committing to a trek along the Inca Trail, they are all fantastic ways to raise much-needed sponsorship.

There are two main dental charities in the UK – Dentaid and Bridge2Aid. They both provide vital oral health services in the developing world and are always looking for dentists who would like to get involved.

Dentaid

Dentaid’s mission is to improve the oral health of disadvantaged communities around the world. Its oral health strategy is centred upon four strategic priorities: oral health promotion, physical resources, training and advocacy. They have projects around the world, including in Cambodia, Malawi, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Rwanda and Ukraine.

Dentaid is world renowned for its equipment supply

operation. Since the charity began, Dentaid has helped establish almost 200 charitable dental treatment clinics in more than 50 countries around the world. For the last five years, one complete dental surgery has left Dentaid’s workshops for overseas every 10 working days.

Hundreds of smaller shipments have also been dispatched, including instrument kits to equip health workers to provide dental care in remote rural communities. The charity estimates that every year over a million people worldwide are safely relieved of oral pain thanks to this commitment.

For more information on how you can help Dentaid, visit www.dentaid.org.

Bridge2Aid

Bridge2Aid is a charity, which operates dental and community development programmes in north west Tanzania. Dental caries is a huge issue for people living in developing countries, and Tanzania is no exception. Without access to a dentist

or even someone who can safely remove a decayed tooth,

Tanzanians face suffering the daily agony of severe toothache or risking injury by seeking unqualified help. The charity’s dental work is helping to safely relieve the pain of hundreds of thousands of people each year through treatment and training programmes for Tanzanian health care workers. Bridge2Aid operates trips for dental volunteers three times a year in February, June and October. The volunteers help train clinical officers who can deliver basic dental services to the large rural populations of the region and are also heavily involved in providing treatment themselves. These volunteer programmes are very popular, so if you would like to visit Tanzania with Bridge2Aid you may need to wait until a suitable opening comes up. If you are interested in volunteering visit www.bridge2aid.org.

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