A Beginner’s Guide to Volunteering in Dentistry

By Dr. Natalie Bustillo, FDA Foundation Board of Directors

Volunteerism is an honored tradition in the United States and around the world, touted as a celebration of the spirit of community involvement. Certainly, our community is familiar with philanthropic work. In fact, it’s estimated that Florida’s almost 10,000 dentists may donate as much as $15,000-$30,000 in free care and treatment each year.

Some people volunteer because they want to help people, others do it for a particular cause and some volunteer to make new friends. Whatever your reason, it’s clear that volunteering provides a number of benefits.

Trying to figure out what volunteer opportunity to choose can be a confusing and time-consuming process. How do you know that the organization is doing good work? Will the project be the right fit for you? If you’ve contemplated volunteering but don’t know where to begin, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much time do I have? It’s always better to wait until you know you have the time for community service. Consider whether you are seeking an ongoing, a short-term or a one-time assignment.

2. What causes or issues are important to me? Look for opportunities that meet your interests.

3. What skills and experience do I have to share? Many organizations are looking for qualified professionals to serve communities in need, whether overseas or right here in the United States.

4. What level of physical activity can I manage? It’s important that you be honest with yourself regarding the types of volunteer positions that are a good fit for you given your health and well-being.

5. With whom do I want to work? Do you want to work independently or with a team? Do you want to work alone, or with a group?

Once you have identified your expectations, ask your friends or colleagues about their own philanthropic activities. It’s likely that your friends will have similar interests and can suggest opportunities that are a good fit for you. The Internet has great online volunteer referral services as does your local library. If your interest is in providing dental care to underserved populations or dental health education to youth, I suggest you start with the FDA Foundation — the 2016 Florida Mission of Mercy is right around the corner and we still need volunteers! This is the perfect opportunity to sign up to volunteer your time and services to those in greatest need!

For more information and to sign up to volunteer, go to www.flamom.org. Don’t delay — volunteer registration closes on March 1!

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