As anyone who’s ever had a tooth ache knows, it’s tough to concentrate on much else until you can get to a dentist. But more than half of Virginians don’t have dental insurance and many don’t have money to pay out of pocket.
This week, Mission of Mercy is holding its free dental clinic in southwestern Virginia.
The Mission of Mercy free oral care program travels to different locations around Virginia every year. Executive Director Tara Quinn says, when it comes to southwest Virginia, some people hike through the mountains and camp out over night to be there.
“It’s dramatic to think that we have had this level of turn out to the clinic over the years, over a thousand people in two and a half days shows you the extreme need that still exists in Virginia, even as one of the wealthiest states in the nation.”
Virginia expanded Medicaid this year, but it doesn’t do much for dentistry, covering only emergency extractions for most people. And that means a lot of people don’t get the care they need, leading to potentially costlier health problems.
“Oral health is an integral part of overall health and when we take the mouth out of the equation, overall health, and other things suffer as well; things like a child’s ability to concentrate in school as they deal with mouth pain or an individual’s ability to stay on the job as they’re dealing with extreme pain or discomfort,” Quinn says.
Quinn says the clinic is open to anyone and everyone. There are no income requirements or other restrictions. "We see a lot of people that are working hard but just cannot afford dental care or live in parts of the state where there simply is not access to care because there is very few dentists practicing in that area”
The Mission of Mercy volunteer dentists, their support staff, and other volunteers offer everything from cleanings, fillings and extractions to root canals and denture repairs.
This year, for the first time, instead of the open-air clinic on Remote Area Medical site at the Wise County Fairground, the free dental clinic will be 3 miles away at an indoor facility on the University of Virginia-Wise campus. There will be a free shuttle running between locations.
For details about MOM click here.
Upcoming Mission of Mercy Clinics coming this year:
- Grundy, VA – October 6-7
- Richmond, VA (serving the homeless community) – November 13