Thinking about an Overseas Dental Placement? Just do it!

Dental school was hard! It was all-consuming! Sometimes I felt like my whole life revolved around perfecting my cavity preps, or getting the perfect MAF radiograph 1mm from the apex. Then holidays would come around and out the window went all things dentistry. When presented with the opportunity to complete an overseas placement, it would have been very easy to pass it up and enjoy Summer break. With a rush of blood to the head, I signed myself up to not one, but two overseas dental placements. You can read further about these placements below.

King’s College London (30th Nov – 11th Dec 2015)

Soon after the completion of my 3rd year of the DMD degree, I jetted off to London with 3 good friends to complete the dental elective program at KCL. While the weather was less than welcoming, we were met by very friendly and encouraging staff and students on our first day who made us feel right at home. The dental clinics were placed 26 floors up in the modern Guy’s hospital, which gave us stunning 360° views of central London.

In our time at KCL, we were exposed to a wide range of specialities including Orthodontics, Endodontics, Periodontology, Oral medicine, Oral surgery, and Restorative dentistry, amongst others. With a much larger patient base than we have in Sydney and the increased eligibility for care due to the NHS, we saw a wide range of patients being treated for conditions which we had never been clinically exposed to before. One of the clinics focussed on removable prosthetic treatments for adults with non-surgically corrected cleft palate. “Obturators” were constructed and fitted which closed the oro-nasal communication, improving the patients’ ability to eat, drink and talk. Prior to the placement, I was unaware of this treatment and had only known the word “Obturate” to refer to endodontic treatment!

Placement at this world-leading university and teaching hospital exposed me to many incredible clinicians who were just as excited to have a student from Australia as I was to be there. It prompted me to question some of the practices I had previously been taught and helped me to sift through the plethora of clinical techniques available, to choose the ones which fit me and my patients best. I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at KCL and would recommend it to any student who is after a dental elective placement which combines a world-class dental school with top-notch facilities in one of the world’s most exciting cities.

Community Clinic Epi, Vanuatu (13th – 23rd Jan 2016)

From one extreme of civilisation to another, the Island of Epi in Vanuatu was a stark contrast to my time in London at KCL. A good friend and I boarded a plane in Port Vila so small we could reach forward and grab the controls. After an exciting ride, we found ourselves on the sparsely populated island of Epi in Vanuatu.

We were accompanied by a Dentist with a special interest in Oral Surgery. Patients in the clinic were almost exclusively for exodontia. With no electricity, surgical extractions often meant use of the surgical hammer and chisel – truely an eye-opening experience! Fortunately not a technique I’ve needed in private practice, but it rapidly improved my exodontia skills, giving me the confidence to tackle most exo cases.

Just do it!

I really enjoyed both experiences and would encourage any other dental student/practitioner to explore the opportunities available for dental placements within the global community. Theres so much more to learn and experience than whats just available in your own backyard. Plus, you’ll make connections with like-minded people across the globe who you otherwise wouldn’t have had the pleasure of getting to know!

If you’ve been lucky enough to complete an overseas dental placement, let us know about your experience! It might just help someone else make the leap to similar eye-opening experiences.

James is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW Australia. Read more at www.dentalheadstart.com/meet-james/

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