More than 1900 volunteer dentists, hygienists, and community helpers, set up a giant dental office in the Oregon Convention Center Monday. Organized by the Oregon Dental Association, the Mission of Mercy effort will deliver free dental care to 2,000 people who don't have insurance or the means to pay for treatment.
"We are hoping to deliver around $1 million in dental treatment here," said Jill Price, a dentist and chair of the Mission of Mercy. "There's just a huge need for dental care in this state. We're seeing homeless, patients, indigent patients, and lots of working poor, people who do have jobs but don't have insurance or enough money to pay for treatment."
|Jeffrey Franklin can't work or play his usual sports at the moment because of complications from diabetes. "It's like living in slo-mo," he told the Skanner News. "I'm not used to slo-mo; I'm an active person."|
Jeffrey Franklin secured his place in line as number 953. A longtime waiter at the Greek Cocina, Franklin has been unemployed since the downtown restaurant closed in 2009. Shortly after, he visited Multnomah County's health clinic and discovered he had a hereditary form of diabetes.
"It can affect your vision, your kidneys, and also your teeth and gums," Franklin said. "And I haven't had dental care for many years. I'm glad they have something like this."
Jhoycellin Voldovino teared up as she explained that her 4-year-old daughter Keeshaey has pain in four teeth. The family arrived at 3:30 a.m. Monday, and Keeshaey was among the lucky 1000 who will have treatment on site. Volunteer Latino, Vietnamese and Russian translators were on hand to help families communicate with health care professionals.
Among the volunteer dentists was Jim Smith, (above in video) a class of 1973 Jefferson High School graduate, who spent 24 years in the U.S. Navy before returning to Portland where he takes care of patients at Kaiser.
"We're seeing about 2000 people in two days, some of them people who have had pain for years, Smith said. "They've had great pain and just nowhere to go. So that's a wonderful thing."
Jhoycellin Valdovino and her 4-year-old daughter Keeshaey
The mission is offering high-quality care that includes check-ups, extractions, fillings, cleaning, root canals and even partial dentures. Price said the mission won't solve the problem of access to care, or the lack of preventive services, such as dental sealants, hygiene education and fluoridation of water, which Oregon has not adopted.
Five hundred more people volunteered this year, than last year. The mission didn't even have space for everyone who wanted to help.
"I feel great because we are providing everything here that you'd find in any dental clinic," she said. "We even have a lab here where volunteers are making prostheses for people with missing teeth," Price said. "It will remove the embarrassment and humiliation of not having their front teeth and give them back their smile. That will help some people get jobs. That's what these smile teeth do for you."
Jill Price helped organize the clinic as chair of Mission of Mercy
The Oregon Convention Center donated space for the event. Supplies and medical equipment too was loaned or donated.