Our goal is to provide experiential learning opportunities and cultural expansion for dentistry students while allowing those in our partner communities to benefit from an oral health exam and treatment from a licensed medical professional.

Dentistry Service Learning Teams

Dental care is one of the most critically underserved areas of global health care. With the help of our volunteers, ISL is able to enhance smiles, provide oral health and hygiene education and supplies, and provide dental care for thousands annually.

This program focuses on pediatric dentistry because 1) this represents the greatest need area of dentistry in developing countries, 2) pediatric dentistry is less invasive and therefore more amenable to more activity by both dental and pre-dental students, 3) our efforts are focused on prevention and public health dentistry – clearly the advancing edge of World Health Organization guidelines and emphasis.

Our dental programming functions in accordance with the best practices of the local dental community and is compatible with ADEA guidelines.

Who is Right for Dental Teams

ISL’s dental teams are ideal for students of dentistry at all education levels. Pre-dental students are welcome!

What to Expect

Upon arrival in-country, you will be met at the airport by ISL staff. Your team’s first day will be busy with orientation and intensive training seminars on topics such as community oral health education, tooth identification, nerves of the mouth, basic dental exams and screenings, manual cleanings, field extraction techniques, filling cavities, review of dental instruments and proper care and handling of equipment, review of standard safety precautions and waste materials disposal, and basic dental Spanish or Swahili.

On a dentistry team, you will work in our partner communities in the following ways:

  • Visit homes to assess the needs for oral health care
  • Evaluate living conditions making connections between lifestyle and health issues
  • Provide oral health screenings
  • Distribute dental health kits and educational materials

You will also invite children and adults with acute oral health concerns to a field clinic staffed by a local dentist. At the clinic, you will rotate through stations taking turns doing the following:

  • Patient interviews/intake
  • Oral health screenings
  • Guide patients at manual cleaning stations
  • Observe the dentist performing extractions, fill cavities and aid with pain management
  • Participate in maintenance and management of dental support equipment, inventories and supplies
  • Provide oral hygiene instruction to children and adult patients
  • Set up and participate in pharmacy station
  • Play with the community children

Be aware: there will be virtually NO down-time during your ISL program. This is an immersive, intensive experience loaded with service activities and cultural exploration!

In the evenings, you will participate in seminars on prevention and treatment of diseases common to the area and practice techniques such as suturing and administering injections.

There will also be designated time for group reflection – time to discuss and express what you’ve experienced in your day’s community work, either formally or informally.

Your team will eat most dinners out in order to relax and experience the local culture and cuisine. You will learn a few traditional dances and explore some important historical/cultural sites.

Recreational opportunities vary by location, but you will have opportunities like: shopping for local crafts and exploring geographic treasures such as beaches, volcanoes, rainforests, or caves. Traverse ruins, tour city centers, or trek through coffee plantations, and have time for other exciting activities such as ziplining, snorkeling, or safari!

Volunteer Involvement

Volunteers are directly supervised by a licensed dental professional at all times. ISL collaborates with in-country professionals and local Ministries of Health in order to determine how our volunteers can best assist our partner communities. Level of volunteer participation is directly dependent on level of training.

Pre-dental students will be trained to distribute dental materials, provide oral hygiene instruction, and perform patient intake and interviews. Pre-dental students may actively observe all activities and assist as directed.

Dental students may actively participate in all clinical activities deemed permissible by the supervising dentist and the institution of higher learning with which they are affiliated. It is the responsibility of the dental student to be informed of and adhere to the policies of his/her dental school.

Safety and Respect

Respect of our patients

Patient consent is, of course, an essential pre-requisite for any level of volunteer participation.  All patients sign a consent form to be seen by a doctor with students observing – we have their complicit consent to treat prior to their intake and examination.

Our patients are protected from exploitation – we are discreet and respectful. We do NOT under any circumstances take photo of any procedure during a patient’s visit. Furthermore, patient rights must be respected at all times; Patients have the right to refuse treatment.

ISL prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, religion or any other factor.

Volunteer Safety

For the sake of security, ISL volunteers remain together as a team from arrival to departure, and are accompanied by ISL staff at all times.

The safety of our volunteers is our number one priority. ISL has offices in all of the countries that we serve. That means wherever you go, rest assured, we’re there too. All ISL regional staff members are thoroughly screened to ensure the safety of your team’s local interactions and we continuously monitor and address all emerging health and safety issues in each of the countries we operate.

Specific precautions taken by ISL:

  • ISL teams avoid large, crowded areas like sporting events whenever possible.
  • We continuously monitor local media and information sources in each of our countries through our on-site staff, and take appropriate actions to avoid areas of concern.
  • Our on-site staff provide feedback on the local situation in each community we work, and if recommendations are made to change itineraries or programming, we do so immediately.
  • Our management team relies on the advice of a number of organizations including the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as an international safety and security organization. If conditions exist that may hinder our ability to provide a safe program, we will alter the itinerary and redirect the program to safer regions or provide other alternatives.

What To Bring

You will need:

  • Stethoscope
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Otoscope
  • Scrubs
  • Donations of medications
  • Medical supplies (optional)
  • Refillable water bottle (i.e. Nalgene bottle)
  • Funds sufficient to cover one meal per day, recreation, incidentals, souvenirs and departure tax (where applicable).
  • An open-mind
  • A sense of adventure
  • A heart of service

What ISL Provides

  • 24-hour accompaniment by professional, bilingual staff
  • Airport pickup/drop off
  • All ground transportation
  • All lodging
  • Two meals per day
  • Drinking water
  • Instruction by licensed medical professionals
  • Medications and supplies
  • Quality experiential learning
  • A meaningful glimpse into another culture
  • An unforgettable adventure