By: Alison Aldridge (Bio at bottom)
Before Applying to Dental Schools (Work experience abroad)
If you are thinking about dentistry as a career, then gaining some work experience beforehand can be invaluable. Competition for university places is always tough, and work experience can account for more than ever. Personal statements have become even more critical than before, as this is the part of the application that will help you get an interview, and it’s probably the most important thing other than your grades/UKCAT score. Being in a clinical setting and learning from qualified dentists will show admissions tutors you have the dedication and enthusiasm necessary to complete the training.
A quick search on the Internet can help identify several different programs offering pre-dentistry work experience placements overseas. Students generally get to take an observational role, but occasionally there may be some opportunity to complete hands-on tasks. The type of dentistry can vary according to country, as placements in Tanzania and Zanzibar are likely to see more extractions and root canal therapy and fillings, due to the fact that patients frequently haven’t seen a dentist for a while. In comparison placements in the Czech Republic and Thailand have a much heavier emphasis on cosmetic dentistry and implants.
The placements can vary in length from anything between one and four weeks, but most students opt for at least a couple of weeks. Those choosing to join these pre-dental programs are generally looking to gain experience before applying for dental schools, but also includes undergraduate students and gap year students, and those about to enter sixth form. Of course there is plenty of free time to make the most of your destination.
Volunteering After Qualifying
Volunteering after qualifying can also be invaluable, and you’ll find most placements are tailored as closely as possible to your experience and your interests. You can choose to work in a variety of different clinical settings, from small rural dental clinics to large city hospitals. Wherever you choose to go you can be sure you’ll be well received, as most clinics are short staffed due to the limited resources of many countries. Placements are available in a diverse range of countries, including Bolivia, Ghana, Mongolia, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. These times placements are likely to give valuable experience in local dentistry clinics. There is plenty of support pre-departure on travel and medical advice. Advice is also giving on visas and equipment. Once in the country volunteers will be given orientation and training, and all accommodations and meals and airport pickups are included.
It’s worth being aware that you will often be working with a lack of equipment and resources, as dental surgeries can be pretty basic. There’s often a lack of adequate laboratory support. However it’s an excellent opportunity to treat the kind of cases that are rarely seen in the UK and it’s an excellent way to expand your dental knowledge.
Whether you choose to complete an overseas placement before or after dental school is up to you. It could help make a difference to your application, but the experience gained is valuable at any stage of your career, and depending on the location, it could be your chance to make a difference to a developing country.
By: Alison Aldridge
Alison completed her training at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England, and she is registered with the General Dental Council in London, England. She has over twenty five years of experience working within the dental industry and currently writes for Findmydentist.com