Hundreds line up to receive free dental care

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Hundreds line up to receive free dental care

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A patient receives free dental care as part of a two-day event held by the Wisconsin Dental Association.
Fred Michmershuizen, DTA

By Fred Michmershuizen, DTA

Thu. 1 October 2009

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NEW YORK, NY, USA: At various events around the country, hundreds of people with little or no insurance have been lining up for hours for the chance to receive free dental and medical care. In La Crosse, WI, USA, for example, the Wisconsin Dental Association and WDA Foundation held a two-day event, called Mission of Mercy, in which 1,533 children and adults received dental care at no charge.

More than 900 volunteers, including 170 dentists and 87 hygienists, were involved in the setup, two treatment days and cleanup of this inaugural, large-scale oral health care event, held at the at the La Crosse Center.

Medical professionals from Wisconsin and four other states — Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Minnesota — took part. In all, 
6,900 procedures —including 
1,700 extractions
, 1,525 fillings, 
597 cleanings, 
135 treatment partials and at least 
18 denture repairs — were performed.

“Charity alone is not a sufficient health care delivery system for meeting the needs of some 1 million low-income individuals enrolled annually in the state dental Medicaid, BadgerCare and BadgerCare Plus programs,” stated the WDA in a news release following the event. “These patients suffer for various reasons: failure to care for their own oral health; inability to find a dental office for routine care, because small businesses can’t absorb too much income loss; and lawmakers’ failure to sufficiently fund the dental care they promise.”

Organizers of the event estimated that more than USD$850,000 in donated care was offered.

The WDA acknowledged the support of various corporate sponsors — including Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Henry Schein Dental, the Henry Schein Employee Sunshine Committee, American Orthodontics, the La Crosse Community Foundation and Ho-Chunk Nation — for making the event possible.

The event in Wisconsin is one of many such events being held nationwide. Another similar event, held at the L.A. Forum in Los Angeles, CA, USA, offered both dental and medical care free of charge. About 1,500 people lined up to receive care at that event.

Such events are drawing the attention of many manufacturers of dental supplies and equipment. One of them, Aseptico, provided dental exam and treatment equipment for the Los Angeles event, according to Stefan A. Gefter, director of international sales.

“Aseptico regularly supplies public health and humanitarian organizations, either directly or through dealers, with portable dental equipment as part of our business,” Gefter told Dental Tribune. “While we are directly involved in all such events, it is always gratifying to see portable equipment being used, regardless of manufacturer, to help those less fortunate.”

According to a government report, “Oral Health in America,” released by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 110 million Americans do not have dental insurance and there are enormous oral health disparities according to socioeconomic determinants.

“We need to find a way for all Americans to experience optimal oral health, especially children under 5 and our elderly,” said Dr Harold C. Slavkin, a policymaker, educator and researcher who was one of the authors of the report.

“From my perspective, comprehensive health care must be available for all people of all ages and must include mental, vision and oral health with an emphasis upon prevention,” Slavkin said.

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