Hundreds of people lined up to receive relief from toothaches, routine cleanings, extractions and more at the first annual Rhode Island Mission of Mercy (RIMOM) Free Dental Care Clinic, where I joined 600 people who volunteered their time, talent, and clinical expertise to make this event a success. The RI Mission of Mercy is one of the programs in the portfolio of grants that I manage. I was extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to see the impact of the DentaQuest Foundation’s work first hand.
I arrived early in the morning, around 4:45a.m., to a line of people wrapped around the building, already waiting for care. I spent most of the event running food and water to patients and volunteers and escorting patients from place to place.
For each patient, getting the care they needed each meant something different.
For one woman, it meant being able to celebrate milestones with a smile. A lady shared with me that her daughter, the first in her family to graduate from college, was too embarrassed to smile in graduation pictures. After receiving the proper dental care, her daughter can now smile and celebrate one of the most important moments in her life.
For another man, it meant a sense of hope. Observing the massive line of people awaiting dental care, I overheard him say to someone else in line, “I thought I was the only one. I can’t believe it!”
What really struck me was when I was walking down the line in the pouring rain, one of the patients graciously offered me his umbrella. At first, I resisted, and he replied, “Listen, buddy I haven’t been able eat for 4 months, so if I can get that problem fixed, it doesn’t matter if I get wet.” The patients were so appreciative of the dental work they were receiving.
All in all, 800 deserving patients received free dental services totaling over $375,000.00. Volunteers performed over 300 fillings, 450 extractions, 200 teeth cleanings, 30 root canals and 45 removable partial dentures were fabricated and inserted.
Missions of Mercy free care clinics serve an important need in helping people who have no other options for dental care. They are a stop gap, not a solution. But we are working on it. The DentaQuest Foundation and its partners in communities across the United States are working to make sure people across America are able to get oral health education and care.