Free dental clinic plans to serve more than 2,000

By Shane Ryan
Staff writer

Posted: Monday, Jun. 20, 2011

Organizers are recruiting dentists, assistants, hygienists and volunteers to put on a free 36-hour clinic for people without access to dental care.

The North Carolina Missions of Mercy, a nonprofit group that serves the poor, plans to offer screenings, cleanings, extractions and other services round-the-clock beginning 6 a.m. Aug. 19 and wrapping up 6 p.m. Aug. 20.

The event will be at the Charlotte Convention Center and is intended to serve more than 2,000 people.

“The real magic about this thing is that it’s like a MASH clinic but it’s dental,” says Dr. Evan Miller, who is helping organize the Charlotte clinic. “It’s a very upbeat, can-do, communal atmosphere.”

Dental professionals will work in teams and shifts to keep hundreds of dental chairs filled with patients, Miller said. Organizers hope to recruit some 400 dentists, 400 assistants and 200 hygienists.

The event also needs 800 community volunteers to help with registration, patient escort and Spanish-to-English translation, Miller said.

“It’s crazy numbers we’re going after,” he said, “but it’s a lot of fun, and you make a lot of new friends.

“You feel that energy right away, and you’re hooked for life. You can’t help it.”

Generally, dental professionals will address one major dental problem for each patient.

To qualify for care, patients must have an annual income less than 200 percent of the federally established poverty level. A family of two, for example, qualifies if they earn less than $29,140 per year.

The clinic is not taking appointments; patients are encouraged to arrive early.

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