Dental practitioners are healthcare professionals who help maintain oral health. According to the World Health Organization, robust dental health is an indicator of overall well-being.
Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of dentists worldwide—particularly in regions with high growth rates, such as Africa and Southeast Asia. To improve access to oral health services, governments in multiple countries have agreed to accommodate dental interns. These worldwide dental internship programs help ease the burden of some 3.5 billion individuals affected by oral diseases, including dental caries, gum disease, tooth loss, and so on.
If you’re a dentistry student, there are excellent places to go to for a worthwhile internship experience. But first, find out how what internship, externship, and volunteering opportunities mean.
Externship, Internship, and Volunteering: What’s the Difference?
You can boost your skills and knowledge in these three ways, with dentistry internships being the most common and preferred method. Under this arrangement, an intern receives minimal pay for performing entry-level tasks under the supervision of a skilled dental professional.
On the other hand, externships often last shorter than internships and entail a dentistry student shadowing or observing an industry expert. As such, an externship could include networking with other professionals, performing interviews, and learning more about the practice in general. As the name suggests, volunteering involves extending specific services for free and under the premise of civic or humanitarian purposes.
These opportunities provide students with beneficial knowledge and experience to add to their résumé, increasing a dentistry student’s chances of getting hired or advancing their studies.
4 Best Opportunities for Dental Internship, Externship, and Volunteering
Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific have the lowest dental professionals per capita. However, some countries outside these regions need more professionals, too. If you’re looking to improve your dental practice in more challenging settings, consider the following locations:
Countries in this region of over 1.3 billion people face a host of sociopolitical and economic challenges, including minimal attention to strengthening oral health among their population. As such, there’s a shortage of research about the oral health situation in 54 nations comprising the zone.
These African countries can benefit from an influx of dental health professionals, even if you’re still a student:
Considered one of the more progressive countries in East Africa, a considerable number of its population live below the poverty line. As a dental intern, you’re expected to increase your knowledge and experience in general dentistry practices by assisting the dental professional in diagnosing and treating oral issues. You’ll be asked to document and update patient records and case summaries. In your free time, visit the majestic Lake Nakuru and witness the great wildebeest migration.
According to a non-profit organization, there were only 20 dentists in Rwanda—a country of over 11 million people—in the early part of 2000. This lack of access has worsened the oral health situation in the country. More than half of Rwandan children have tooth decay, and adults suffer from severe mouth cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). As a dentist intern, you’ll be assisting seasoned dental experts in dealing with a broad range of oral cases that could cover general dental treatment, pathology, and oral surgery.
While the situation has likely improved since then, one thing hasn’t changed—the country remains a top destination for nature lovers. Dental interns who want to take a break can go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park during their free time.
Besides restrictive access to dental services, poor dental health practices are fundamental reasons Tanzanians develop various dental problems. As a dental intern, you will acquire practical knowledge as you assist specialists assigned to promote oral health knowledge and treat an array of dental cases.
Latin America suffers from a lack of dental professionals alongside limited access to oral health care services. For example, Chile has only one dentist per 10,000 individuals, while Brazil has 12. There’s also less attention to oral health and diseases in most Latin American countries, like the rest of developing nations.
Here are Latin American countries you’ll want to have your internship in:
This country is said to have problematic access to health services, including dental care. The deficiency is further worsened by malnutrition and poor oral hygiene. Research has indicated that 90% of Peruvians suffer from dental caries, while 85% have gum diseases.
As a dental intern in Peru, you’ll be busy preparing dental equipment and interacting with patients, apart from assisting the oral specialist in performing various dental procedures. In between shifts, you can visit Machu Picchu or take a trip to Lake Titicaca.
Most of these dental care facilities are strapped for resources and operate differently compared to your place of origin. So an intern should practice deep levels of understanding and develop their problem-solving skills while working overseas. To destress, a dentist intern shouldn’t skip checking their host country while ensuring security.