EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to offering continuing education and networking opportunities, the 2017 Global Oral Health Summit will also provide participants with the chance to partake in a special volunteer activity. Clean the World will guide attendees in assembling hygiene kits to distribute to those in need in the Orlando community. Carestream Dental will also be accepting monetary donations on behalf of Clean the World during the Summit, and contributions of unused toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss will be welcomed. Learn more here.
During the holidays, it’s common to give thanks and reflect on a successful year—a thriving practice, a dedicated staff and happy patients being among them. Some practices may even use this time to give back to their communities, whether through canned food donations or Angel Trees in the office lobby, or a day of volunteering at a food bank with the whole practice.
However, doctors and their staff have valuable skills to offer their communities at any time of the year. Giving, without any expectation of gain, allows dentistry to change lives.
Providing Aid at the National/International Level
One way to give back is to volunteer your time through large non-profit organizations. For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) provides a list of opportunities and organizations, both national and international, that seek the services of dentists here. As ADA eloquently puts it:
Giving back through volunteering and providing community service can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your career. Even contributing an hour to speak to local preschoolers about the importance of brushing can make a difference.
Volunteering with a religious organization is another way to take your valuable services to the people who need it most. While mission trips often focus on providing shelter or education to communities in third-world countries, very seldom do they have the opportunity to also offer dental services.
Volunteering State by State
At the state level, the California Dental Association (CDA) Foundation provides dental services at no charge twice a year through its CDA Cares events. Also, Mission of Mercy, which serves clinics in Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas, offers free dental care and prescription medications to the uninsured and underserved. Both organizations rely on volunteer doctors and staff to provide services to those who would not have access to dental care otherwise. You can check with your state dental association for more volunteer opportunities in your area.
Giving Back to your Local Community
If you’d like to see the direct effect of what free dental services can do in your own backyard, look no further than Tesa Reeves, D.D.S., who launched Free Dental Day in December 2009. The event, similar to CDA Cares, provides dental services to members of Reeves’ community in Pulaski, Tenn. At Reeves’ first Free Dental Day, she treated 90 patients. At her last event in December 2013, Reeves, along with 16 dentists, 12 hygienists and over 100 volunteers, treated 300 patients.
Changing Lives through your Practice
Even within your own practice, providing a deserving patient with an important procedure pro bono is a small, yet incredibly rewarding, way to change someone’s life. Select a patient once a quarter who deserves a new smile. This can even be tied to seasonal marketing for your practice—“A New Year, A New Smile,” “Put the Spring Back in your Smile,” “Your Smile Deserves a Summer Vacation,” or “Give Thanks for a New Smile.”
You could also follow the example set by John Sullivan, D.D.S. with his in-office program “Smile 4 Ward.” Once a month, as a way to both give back and boost the morale of his team, Sullivan asks his staff to vote for a person—whether an existing patient or not—who deserves a dental “fix up.” All the practice asks is that the person who is treated “pays it forward,” and reports back to the team about their own selfless act.
Giving back and volunteering your services can benefit your community, your staff and your practice in more ways than one. Of course, the most rewarding part of giving back and volunteering are the literal smiles that you bring to the faces of the people you help. However, if you need more convincing that volunteerism has its rewards, consider what a practice-wide volunteer project could do for the morale of your staff or how a well placed press release with the local newspaper might bring attention to your practice.
Are you currently volunteering or giving back in some way? Which organization(s) do you work through, or have you started your own local program?
Bio: Adele Reische, of Synergy Practice Management, has over 30 years of experience in dentistry, management and speaking. She is a member of the prestigious Speaking Consulting Network. Competing in the Spot Light On Speaking annual contest through SCN, Adele placed runner up in 2012. She is also a graduate of The Consulting U, a masters training and continuing education program for management consultants founded by industry experts Virginia Moore and Debbie Castagna of The Practice Source. Adele is also a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, The American Academy of Dental Office Mangers, a Certified Consultant in Employment Law with Bent Ericksen & Associates and Adele is the Director of Provider Affiliations with The Allana Smiles Foundation.