Many international volunteer programs incorporate some teaching into their initiatives. For volunteers, this certainly adds to the experience. While the idea of teaching might initially be daunting to volunteers, keep in mind that all dentists are involved in teaching during their everyday professional life, whether it is explaining new procedures to a chairside assistant or giving oral hygiene instructions and caries prevention information to patients. In this case, teaching can create a lifelong relationship with the health care professionals in the regions being served.
Just as obtaining as much information as possible about an upcoming trip is key to a successful experience, those planning to teach should research their audience and the audience’s level of knowledge. For example, will the audience consist of university-trained clinicians or rural health workers? Will the teaching be done in a large classroom setting or in small informal groups? Will dental equipment, typodonts, or patients be accessible for clinical practice? Are teaching materials available in the local language? Previous volunteers can most likely provide you with information about the availability of equipment and materials, the level of dentistry that is practiced locally, and the facilities that can be used for storage of materials. There are some important teaching recommendations worth keeping in mind when considering the many elements of a volunteer experience.