When the pandemic was initially identified in the United States in March 2020, dental assistants were eager to step up as they could to help keep their patients and community members safe.

Specifically, in the spring, we heard from dental assistants like Susan K., COA, who used the time she was temporarily out of work to sew masks for donation.

And dental assistant educators such as Rebecca W., CDA, told us all about coordinating dental supplies to give to local hospitals.

Since spotlighting these stories and more, we continue to hear the giving spirit is still strong among dental assistants. See some more examples below.

 

Continuing to Donate Supplies

As the pandemic continued and dental and healthcare supplies — plus other necessities such as groceries and personal-care and cleaning supplies — remained in demand in some places, dental assistants continued to respond.

For example, Barbara S., CDA, a dental assistant educator in Illinois, spearheaded giving drives in early summer. “Our school donated supplies to nursing homes and handed out masks and hand sanitizer to the local homeless population,” she reports.

Have you donated supplies this year? Share your story!

 

Getting Involved Locally

In addition to supply shortages, another byproduct of the pandemic was the cancelation of travel plans, including for dental mission trips in 2020. Despite this disappointment, those dental assistants who typically go abroad were able to get creative and still make at-home contributions.

“This year has most definitely changed many plans,” explains Elizabeth P., CDA, who usually helps to provide dental care in locations across the globe. For example, she intended to travel to Poland in spring 2020 to attend an international conference for medical students and participate in a dental lecture there, but the pandemic prevented this from happening. Even though Elizabeth was unable to go abroad this year, she’s grateful to reflect on past trips.

“Luckily, I went on a mission trip in February 2019, to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico to help work at mobile dental clinics,” Elizabeth says. “Given the current global health crisis and how it has affected all aspects of life, I am so glad that I took the opportunity to travel when I could.”

With international travel curtailed, Elizabeth decided to volunteer locally, helping with community food distribution through Mobile Foodshare to combat the shortage of supplies at local grocery stores.

“In March, with the pandemic at its peak, our dental office closed and panic growing over limited supplies, I felt a strong need to help my community in any way possible,” Elizabeth recounts. “With Mobile Foodshare, I helped to distribute food weekly from various temporary sites throughout the city where I live, setting up tables, unloading supply trucks, putting together bundles of various food items and handing them out to the public — and then cleaning up and breaking down the site.”

These efforts helped many community members in need. Elizabeth noted that there were often lines to receive the food bundles — even in the rain. “Despite these challenging circumstances,” Elizabeth says, “it was uplifting and inspiring to see the volunteers working together, spreading hope in such unprecedented and challenging times.”

 

Promoting Oral Health Literacy

Regardless of challenges such as the pandemic, the importance of accessing oral healthcare and education remains. Along these lines, other dental assistant volunteers spoke of promoting oral health literacy.

In Virginia, dental assisting students made Halloween treat bags for first-graders, which included toothbrushes among the goodies. They also donated oral health resources such as videos and books to the elementary school.

This donation effort was similar to one made by the local college last year, but reimagined as a result of the pandemic. Shares dental assistant program director Dr. Emily Kate B., CDA: “In 2019, we did a toothbrush giveaway — but due to COVID this year, we could not host an event of that size. Almost 500 children visited campus last year! So, I talked to a local elementary school teacher, and this year’s gift-bag giveaway seemed like a perfect fit under the circumstances.”

Emily believes that volunteerism is important for everyone involved, including the participating students. “I am very passionate about improving oral healthcare in our region,” she says. “It is important to me and our college to emphasize connecting with the community.”

 

Have you volunteered over the past year? Let us know about your efforts!