By Rick Workman, DMD
"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." In many ways, this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson describes being a dentist. We attend dental school to learn the skills and knowledge that allow us to provide the gift of oral health. Every day, you live this quote and help members of your community live healthier lives. That's our mission as dentists – to support the health and livelihood of the communities we serve.
In addition to everyday service, there are many opportunities to support your community on a mass scale. These opportunities will help you reach out to even more patients in need, showcase your commitment to your community, build a long-lasting and positive reputation, and unite your team for the same cause.
Unfortunately, with issues such as lack of access and lingering economic problems, many people are still unable to receive needed oral health care. A report by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging states that more than 130 million Americans currently do not have dental insurance. Additionally, people who do not have dental insurance are approximately two-thirds less likely to have visited their dentist within the past year, compared with those who have dental insurance. That's why initiatives that promote dental health, deliver free treatment services, provide oral health knowledge, and improve standards of living are so important to incorporate into your office.
The current oral health barrier in our country has left far too many people without regular access to care. By holding free dental events and other charitable initiatives, you can ensure those in your community who cannot afford dental work or have no insurance have the chance to receive needed care. Each year, many Heartland Dental affiliated offices hold free dentistry days, in which hundreds of patients are helped and thousands of dollars' worth of dentistry are donated. Since Free Dentistry Day was created several years ago, thousands of patients have been helped and millions of dollars' worth of dentistry has been provided. Even if you're not affiliated with a dental support organization, you can still carry out similar initiatives. All it takes is donation of your time, a little planning, and some motivation, and you can significantly impact your community.
In addition, your team as a whole will thrive from implementing charitable events and staying active in your community. Your team will function best when working together toward a common goal. So give them a goal – set specific dates for events, set specific action plans, set specific event objectives, and stick to them. How many people do you want to help? How many people will it take to accomplish this? How will you promote these events? This will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills and delegate responsibilities to your team members. Throughout the year as your office becomes more active in your community and your team works together, they will become closer. The best part – this will all be accomplished while giving back to others.
Your office's reputation and community standing will also benefit from doing these activities. There are probably many dental offices in your area offering similar services. So how do you stand out? Establish your commitment and values to your community. Every person you help and life that you positively affect is someone who will spread that appreciation and happiness to others. Likewise, those people will spread that message, and so forth. By simply demonstrating your devotion to helping others, you can create a chain reaction of positive awareness for your office throughout your community. You can even get local media outlets to help spread the word.
Your involvement does not have to be limited to free dental events. You can hold food drives, toy drives, and more to help the less fortunate. Your involvement does not have to be limited to your community either. I know many dentists who participate in mission trips to various countries to provide oral health care to those in need. Point being, we have the education and ability to impact the health of others and to change lives. Most people cannot say that. So why not spread that gift as much as possible?
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