WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A free yearly dental clinic for those who cannot afford care will hold its 2019 event at the Mohegan Sun Arena in June.
MOM-n-PA, which stands for Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania, is a Shippensburg-based organization that has been providing the annual clinics at different locations around the state since 2013.
The 2018 mission, held in Reading, treated more than 1,900 patients and provided more than $1 million of care through the efforts of 927 volunteers.
This year, organizers expect 2,000 patients to turn out for the two-day Mohegan Sun Arena clinic, which is set for June 7 and 8. Setup for the event will begin on the afternoon of June 6.
They’re also looking for 800 volunteers, ranging from dentists and oral surgeons to dental hygienists, assistants, lab technicians, nurses, translators, registration workers, and general volunteers to assist with a wide range of tasks.
“It’s very simple,” said Darcie Schaffer, manager of dental services for Wilkes-Barre-based Volunteers in Medicine and one of those helping to organize the event.
“They can sign up for a full day, a half day, whatever you want to do and the job you want to do.”
Volunteer registration opens April 1 through MOM-n-PA.com.
For those seeking dental services, there is no charge and there are no income or eligibility requirements. Patients will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, and the clinic is open to children and adults.
Dr. Richard Grossman, a Kingston dentist and volunteer who is serving as co-chair of the upcoming clinic, said people began lining up at 4:30 a.m. in the rain for last year’s Reading clinic.
Grossman and Schaffer expect the demand for services will be just as intense as in Reading and at other clinics. Statistics they provided point out that nearly 36 percent of residents in our area live at or below the poverty line, and the median household income is $31,248.
It’s something they see daily during their work here — especially at Volunteers in Medicine, where Grossman volunteers a few times per month.
“We are keeping people out of the emergency room, because they do not know what to do with dental patients in the hospitals,” Grossman said. “We are really doing a service to the community when they are treated here, because everybody gets treated for free here.”
What to expect
As noted, they will be treated for free at the arena clinic, which will offer more than just routine cleanings.
“We’re not just doing simple things. If people need a root canal, and we think it’s feasible, it gets done that day,” Grossman said. “If they are missing some teeth, we are hoping that that day they’re going to walk out with some teeth.”
For residents who are familiar with the arena as a venue for hockey, political rallies, graduations and trade shows, it will take on a much different appearance during the dental clinic.
The temporary clinic will be divided into different sections, for fillings, root canals, oral surgery/extractions, cleanings, kids’ dentistry and injections for anesthesia.
There will be 130 dentist’s chairs, Grossman and Schaffer said, as well as 15 to 20 autoclaves constantly running to sterilize equipment.
“We’ll go through a lot of instruments,” Grossman said. “There’s so much logistics going into this that you have to just be there to appreciate it.”
At the end of the two days, organizers hope they will have made a difference in the lives of people who have been suffering from poor dental health.
“We’re hoping to rebuild some smiles and help people chew and enjoy food again, alleviate pain,” said Grossman.
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FREE DENTAL CLINIC
What: Fillings, cleanings, extractions and more
When: June 7-8; first-come, first-served with no appointments needed
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena
Who: Anyone, regardless of income, can participate; children 12 and under are encouraged to come on Saturday, June 8.
Volunteers: Professional and laypersons needed; registration starts April 1
Details: Patients and volunteers should visit http://www.mom-n-pa.com/