In this study, 491 dental students at one dental school in the United States and one in Bulgaria were surveyed to assess their perceptions about the mission of dental schools to advance global dentistry and philanthropy. The study included questions about prior involvement in charitable dental missions. Many respondents felt that their dental school does not advance global dentistry nor adequately teaches students the virtues of philanthropy and volunteerism. The majority agreed, however, that dental schools have a moral obligation to raise the level of oral health care worldwide and help underserved communities access basic dental care. They reported that an opportunity to spend a semester at a foreign dental school would enhance their dental education in ways that are not presently fulfilled; help them better understand cultural diversity; and teach them about philanthropy and volunteerism. In their opinion, international exchange programs that provide clinical rotations and field experiences in economically challenged and underserved areas of the world would a) foster the global advancement of dentistry; b) promote an appreciation for cultural diversity and socioeconomic disparity in the communities that graduates will be serving; and c) teach students the virtues of philanthropy and volunteerism. This study may contribute to understanding factors affecting student involvement in programs to advance global dentistry.
Keywords: dental education; dental students; global dentistry; international exchange; multiculturalism; philanthropy; volunteerism.