WHY GO ON A DENTAL ELECTIVE ABROAD?

A dental elective abroad is your chance to go on a clinical placement in a low-resource hospital in a developing country. The experience also gives your CV a huge boost, helping you land your dream job.

You choose the destination you want to go to and the areas you want to get experience in, whether they be maxillofacial surgery, general oral hygiene or otherwise.

The aim of a placement like this is for you to see a healthcare system that differs from your own. While abroad, you’ll get experience with practices and conditions you’re unlikely to have encountered.

You’ll see cases of decay advanced well beyond what you’ve seen before. You’ll learn how sociocultural issues impact patients. You’ll also see how local specialists adapt to challenges stemming from equipment shortages.

THE CLINICAL EXPERIENCE

Clinical experience of this kind is about gaining perspective and challenging what you know. You’ll quickly realise that things we take for granted in the UK, like cosmetic dentistry, are often totally unachievable in most of our destinations.

Some things you might observe include:

  • Lack of resources and use of outdated equipment
  • Poor oral hygiene (many children have severe decay)
  • Lack of sterilisation procedures
  • Extremely late presentations and advanced conditions

You will also see major differences in the fundamentals of dentistry too. For example, in many of our destinations, there is almost no preventative dentistry. Saving the tooth is a secondary concern as procedures are simply too expensive for most patients.

Your hospital placement runs Monday to Friday, leaving your evenings and weekends free to explore the destination you’ve chosen.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

The service you get with us is end-to-end. That means we will support you before, during and even after your trip.

The service covers all bases, taking the stress out of planning a dental elective abroad.

Arrivals are every Sunday, 52 weeks of the year (you can travel whenever suits you), and durations start from one week.

YOU GET A ONE-TO-ONE SERVICE THAT INCLUDES:

  • A tailored overseas elective in your choice of departments
  • Comprehensive pre-trip preparation
  • Accommodation in a private, catered house
  • A 24/7 in-country team to support you
  • Airport pickup

Click here to see the full list of inclusions

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

Your hospital placement is the focus of your trip. But your evenings and weekends are free to do some proper travelling.

You'll make lots of like-minded friends in the Work the World house. And you'll all go on big weekend trips together — from trekking through the Himalayas to whitewater rafting down the Zambezi. Whether you’re travelling solo or as a group, this is your chance to do something big before you graduate into the working world.

WHERE DO I START?

Your first port of call is to speak to our team. Our team are ready to answer any and all of your questions, and will paint a vivid picture of what a nursing elective placement could look like for you.

Get in touch using the short enquiry form at the bottom of this page.

dental elective

DESTINATIONS

Indonesia - Yogyakarta
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Your first few hours next to the dental chair in Yogyakarta will be a crash-course on the state of dental health in Indonesia. It will be clear from day one that education around oral care at home (that and promoting limited-sugar diets) haven’t been a priority here. Patients tend to only seek treatment when there is pain, and because of this, preventative dentistry is less developed here than you’re used to in the UK. One major barrier to patients seeking care is the cost. Dental care is neither free nor subsidised in Indonesia, so the average salary wouldn’t cover tooth-saving procedures, let alone regular check-ups.

Mexico - Merida
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On your dentistry elective in Merida, you’ll learn how a lack of preventative treatments have led to 60 percent of people in Mexico showing signs of periodontal disease. There’s limited information around oral health too. As in the UK, saving the tooth is top priority, but this isn’t normally possible because patients tend to present so late — you’ll see cases that are far more severe than you would in the UK. The dentistry department in our partner hospital is split between general consultations and maxillofacial surgery. 

Zambia - Lusaka
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Your dental placement in Zambia takes place in the only hospital in the city where patients have access to free or low-cost care. And even then, this is only possible because it’s a university teaching hospital. Patients have very limited access to dental care as government funding is focused elsewhere. If a patient needs restorative treatment, they can either find a government hospital or pay for private treatment. Paying for treatment is unrealistic for most Zambians, so checkups are rare and it’s common for people to wait until their condition becomes severe before they seek treatment.

Tanzania - Dar es Salaam
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If you do your dental elective placement in Dar es Salaam, you’ll see that many Tanzanians suffer from oral health issues. Similar to some of our other destinations, this is because of a lack of education around oral health. You’ll see a lot of patients suffering from dental fluorosis too, and this is due to water contamination and diet. A placement here is eye-opening, and things will be different from what you’re used to in the UK. For example, patient-centred care isn’t high on the list of priorities and there are no options for sedation, or really any resources to do anything other than help patients with their immediate pain. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Dar es Salaam.

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Nepal - Pokhara
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On your dental elective placement in Pokhara, you’ll see patients presenting with some of the most advanced conditions you’ve ever seen. This is because care costs money, and many patients can’t afford treatment, so they delay it as long as the pain allows. You’ll get your experience in our partner hospital’s dedicated dentistry department. While the department is quite well equipped, infection control standards are lacking. Staff reuse burs, and when things are sterilised, the sterilisation methods are not as thorough as you’re used to in the UK. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Pokhara.

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Nepal - Kathmandu
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On a dentistry placement in Nepal, you’ll see conditions that you might only see in clinical journals in the UK. Odontogenic cysts, for example. Previous students have even reported sitting in on advanced surgeries like mandibular resections. On the other hand, the lack of resources in the hospital will help you to appreciate just how advanced care is for patients in the UK, even on the NHS. Early diagnosis is rare in Kathmandu, so basic preventative treatment options are limited. You’ll also note that contact time with patients is shorter than in the UK — there are so many patients to see that local dentists just don’t have the time. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Kathmandu.

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Sri Lanka - Kandy
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On your dental elective abroad, you’ll see that dentistry in Sri Lanka hasn’t advanced at the same rate as it has in the UK, so in spite of offering similar treatments, there are big differences in the way they’re carried out. You may also see tooth staining that results from patients chewing betel leaves (a mild stimulant). Chewing these leaves can lead to cavities and, in extreme cases, oral cancer. Sri Lanka has high oral cancer rates, and many clinicians believe that betel leaves are the main reason for this. The learning experience goes both ways, so expect local dentists to be interested in hearing about the latest techniques in the UK too! Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Kandy. 

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Ghana - Takoradi
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You’ll have an eye-opening dentistry elective in Takoradi, as there are huge differences in practise and resource between Ghana and the UK. For example, when the lights on dental chairs are broken, dentists have to resort to using their mobile phone torches to see. And in terms of practise, you’ll see that patient-centred care is absent — children are often restrained during procedures, for example. You’ll also see that there’s a big difference in how much patients understand about oral health, so you’ll be able to offer some education too. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Takoradi.

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Peru - Arequipa
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On your dentistry elective in Arequipa, you can get experience in well-equipped ‘Micro Redes’ dental clinics found throughout the city. The clinics play a key role in delivering the government’s free dental care programme, which helps low-income patients by providing an all-inclusive service. You’ll see that unlike some of our other destinations, preventative care is increasingly common. That said, saving the tooth isn’t always possible. As part of the experience, you can ask to accompany the dental team out into the community with a mobile clinic. You’ll normally head to schools in the community to offer dental examinations, minor treatments, and help educate children about dental care. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Arequipa.

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"I feel that prevention is key and one of the most important things I could leave behind was knowledge."

Yewande Oduwole, University of Plymouth 2019

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"I got to watch lots of interesting cases such as a salivary gland stone removal"

Abbie Colley, Dundee University 2019

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"Ghana does have many of the same treatments available as we do at home, but many people cannot afford it."

Tess Everatt, University of Sheffield 2018

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"The resilience of the patients—and the people of Tanzania in general—astounded me."

Tessa Jensen, University of Adelaide 2018

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Swan's Review of his Dental Internship in Nepal

"The experience taught me how to work around limited resources and making the most out of them".

Sawan Tailor, University of Leeds 2014

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What is a dental elective?

A dental elective is a clinical placement that dental students undertake as part of their degree. Every year, more and more dental students are doing their dental electives overseas. To create your own customised dental elective, get in touch with us today.

How long is a dentistry elective?

A dental elective is as long as you want it to be. Our minimum placement duration is 2 weeks, but students typically travel on their dentistry electives for 4 weeks. There is no upper limit to how long you can travel for.

What are the most popular countries for dentistry electives?

Our most popular countries for dentistry electives are (in no particular order):

1. Tanzania

2. Zambia

5. Peru

6. Mexico

7. Ghana

9. Nepal

10. Sri Lanka.

What are the benefits of a dental elective?

The benefits of a dental elective include:

  • Expanding your clinical knowledge and skill set
  • Becoming more confident, independent and resourceful
  • Making yourself more attractive to employers
  • Doing some proper travelling
  • Building your personal and professional network
  • Sharpening your language and communication skills
  • Renewing your perspective on the NHS

What kinds of cases will I see on an overseas dentistry elective?

You will see cases like:

  • Severe pulpitis, gingivitis, and periodontitis among young people
  • Various oral cancers
  • Oral abscesses
  • Maxillofacial trauma
  • Cleft palate/cleft lip