For some, a free dental clinic held once a year is the only dental care they’ll receive.
Mission of Mercy, a project of the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation, will begin at 4:30 a.m. Feb. 13 and 14 at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
The clinic is held in a different location each year to provide access for people throughout the state. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 95 of Kansas’ 105 counties are underserved dental areas.
The clinic will offer fillings, extractions and cleanings for children and adults at no cost, and patients will not be asked to provide insurance or proof of income or residency.
This year, coordinators expect about 1,000 volunteers to help more than 1,800 patients during the two-day clinic.
The clinic receives patients from all over Kansas and surrounding states each year, said Jon Tilton, a former dentist and one of the founding members of Kansas Mission of Mercy.
“It’s all done with private funds and generosity, and volunteer dentists bring their staff,” Tilton said. “It’s a very giving type of situation and unique certainly in the medical and dentistry industries to have something like this.”
Patients will undergo medical screening ahead of any procedures, Tilton said, and breakfast and lunch will be provided at no cost.
Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. In the past, some people have lined up ahead of the doors opening, Tilton said.
“Many times, there’s a line forming sometimes as early as two days before the event,” Tilton said.
The vast majority of patients at the clinic are adults, Tilton said, most likely because Kansas does not provide dental Medicaid for most adults, regardless of income.
“Adult dental Medicaid would help,” Tilton said. “Access is part of it and having a place to go and receive care.”
As a result, many people without regular dental care end up getting the most costly form of health care at emergency departments, which doesn’t solve their dental problems in the long term, Tilton said.
Since Mission of Mercy started in 2003, volunteers have provided $12,987,879 worth of donated care to more than 24,000 patients.
For more information, visit www.ksdentalfoundation.org.