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‘I think it’s awesome’
A reason to smile
Kansas dentists provide
free care for 1,200 patientsBy DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
Hundreds of people spent the night at the Western State Bank Expo Center in Dodge City, hoping to take advantage of free dental care offered Feb. 28 and March 1 through the Kansas Mission of Mercy dental clinic.
Thanks to the help of several hundred local volunteers, including dentists and dental assistants from across Kansas, some 1,200 low-income individuals and families were able to receive needed dental care.
“One woman came in with multiple abscesses,” said Dr. Richard Stein of Stein Dental in Dodge City and co-chair of the Dodge City Volunteer Committee. “Now she has a nice smile. A lot of people, if not for this, would eventually have to go to the emergency room.”
“One hundred percent of the dentists in Dodge City participated” in the clinic, Dr. Stein said. The local dentists were among approximately 115 from across the state who took part.
The evening before, organizers met at the Knights of Columbus hall in Dodge City where the Knights provided a dinner, and organizers gave a presentation on the Mission’s efforts.
“We were blessed by the fact that Dodge City is a town steeped in volunteerism,” noted Dr. Richard McFadden, co-chair of the Volunteer Committee, on the event website.
Patients began lining up at 4 p.m. Feb. 26. By 5:30 a.m. Feb. 27, the center was filled to capacity, and people were being turned away. They would be able to try again the following night.
Those lucky enough to make it inside filed into a large seating area while awaiting triage, where the seriousness of their condition would be determined. After an initial exam, they may be sent to an area awaiting fillings, extractions or oral surgery.
An area prepared for children was lined with stuffed animals. Near the back was a section set off for sanitizing dental tools.
According to volunteer Jane Longmeyer, patients were given a breakfast and lunch, both provided free thanks to the donations of food, food preparation, and $160,000 in funding.
“The community has been extremely responsive,” Longmeyer said proudly. “Organizations throughout the state donated.”
Greg Hill, Executive Director of the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation, of which Kansas Mission of Mercy is a part, noted that this is the 13th project they’ve done, the first taking place in Garden City in 2003. Other dental associations provide the clinics across the country.
The next Kansas clinic will take place in Salina on Feb. 13 and 14, 2015.
“There’s a real need in the community for dentistry that’s not being met,” said Dr. Stein. “I’m hoping a public health dental clinic can be incorporated as part of the Ford County Health Department,” thus making dental care far more accessible.
“All we need to do is work together. A lot of these people are invisible,” he said, waving his hand across the vast crowd. “This makes them visible.”