The route to dentistry is more than academics and being book smart. It is even more than having a stellar DAT score. It is a career field that encompasses a strong desire for service and the well-being of others. For this reason, getting involved in the community is an excellent way to build a strong foundation for an aspiring future dentist.
As a predental student from Benedictine University, I am fortunate to be an active member of my university’s predental club. Through my involvement, I have the opportunity to engage in a number of events and activities to enhance my interest in the dental profession and develop leadership in my community.
One event in particular that I attended with my university’s predental organization was called Smiles in the City. The purpose of this collaborative program is to teach elementary school aged children locally and in underserved communities about the importance of oral hygiene. By doing so, both pre-dental students and the community members are able to benefit. Students who are presenting on the topic of oral hygiene earn the opportunity to embrace the role of being an educator in the community. Children who may otherwise not be informed about this topic have a chance to learn about it through creative means rather than in just the normal traditional classroom setting or not at all.
In my experience, the students we visited were very attentive and willing to participate. The young age group especially enjoyed seeing Mr. Toothy, the life-sized tooth mascot. Though a majority of the students had little idea about how to properly brush their teeth in the beginning, all of them were willing to “brush” Mr. Toothy using the giant felt toothbrush and the “magic two rule”, advising the students to brush and floss two times a day, at the end of the oral health presentation.
Presentation props and an engaging scripted performance are the ingredients to the overall recipe of the Smiles in the City events. By reaching out to the community through these means, it serves as an excellent opportunity to working with different age groups and learning to effectively communicate. Additionally, it is a remarkable tool to enhance interpersonal skills. Working with inquisitive young minds encourages the children in the community to explore and seek the answers to their questions as well as look up to the predental students as role models.
By being able to give to the community, predental students can enforce a dental school vision in their own minds and send that message out into the world. It not only makes the transition to clinical and interactive work more comfortable but nurtures an experienced mind.
~Afreen Ahmed, Benedictine ’17, predental member