Third annual free dental clinic July 26-27 at PPG Paints Arena
July 16, 2019
Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh (MOMPGH) organizers expect to again see long lines of patients for its third annual free dental clinic taking place July 26-27, at PPG Paints Arena.
The clinic, which recruited 1,189 volunteers and served more than 1,100 patients in 2018, provides critical services to individuals – many from working families - who do not have dental insurance, lack access to dental care, or who have insurance but cannot afford to cover additional costs. Now in its third year, the clinic provides services to adults and children age 2 and up at no charge, and there are no income or eligibility requirements.
"Pittsburgh is to our knowledge the only city in the United States to offer an annual, two-day, free dental clinic of this scale," says Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh Co-founder Daniel Pituch, DMD, MD. "The need in Pittsburgh is great, and so each year we've worked to recruit more dental professionals and increase the number of dental chairs in order to further increase our capacity to serve patients. At this year's event we will have 100 dental chairs, staffed by caring dental professionals. Additionally, free shuttle service, with multiple stops across the city, will be provided to help eliminate transportation challenges."
Data gathered from a survey of Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh patients in 2018 revealed 45 percent of patients who attended the clinic had experienced dental pain for more than a year, and 25 percent reported visiting the emergency department for dental pain.
"A hospital emergency department is unable to provide definitive dental care, leading individuals to suffer physically for days, weeks and months and in many cases, to go untreated for years," says Dr. Pituch. "By establishing this clinic as an annual event, Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh makes it possible for individuals with limited access to dental care to see a dental professional at least once a year."
Research shows poor oral health has a significant impact on overall health, including premature birth and an increased risk of cancer. The bacteria present in oral infections has been found to contribute to the risk for heart disease and stroke, and studies have found that having damaged, broken or missing teeth impacts an individual's sense of confidence, well-being, and employability, as well as earning power.
Representatives from Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center will be on site to coordinate follow-up care, including helping patients establish regular dental care. After the clinic, qualifying patients will also have access to a comprehensive range of medical services at its health care center to prevent and manage chronic health conditions, including hypertension and diabetes. Cancer screenings are also available at the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center.
Other participating wellness providers include United Healthcare, Big Burgh, People's Gas, Duquesne Light and the Pittsburgh Food Bank.
"Many of the patients who arrive line up for hours before the clinic opens, and even after they are admitted and registered, they have additional wait time," says Mission of Mercy Chairman Keith Young. "Many are in pain, and there is the added stress and anxiety associated with anticipating a dental procedure. Our goal is to provide compassionate care for each person who attends, and every volunteer receives training on treating all those being served with patience, dignity and respect."
Services and treatments that will be provided at Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh include: full dental exam, cleanings, minor restorative fillings, extractions, root canal treatments on select teeth, oral hygiene instruction and a limited number of temporary partial dental appliances. Pediatric dentists will be available to treat children ages two and up.
Due to the limitations of the clinic setting, the following services cannot be provided: full dentures, root canals on molars, crowns, extractions of unexposed wisdom teeth, orthodontics/braces, implants, and treatment of impactions.
Clinic doors will open at 6 a.m. All services at MOMPGH will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached for the day. Capacity is determined by the number of professional volunteers present and cannot be predicted in advance of the opening of the event.
The entire team will strive to treat as many patients as possible each day. Once capacity has been reached, the clinic doors will be closed, and a sign will be placed outside as notification to others. This process will repeat on the second day.