- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Mission of Mercy is looking for more than a few volunteers to help with two days of adult dental screenings.
The screenings will be held 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 18 and 19 at North Point High School in Waldorf and are for patients 19 and older.
Registration is still open, and walk-ins will be welcome both days, said Carol Ann Hall, Mission of Mercy public relations lead, as long as there are spaces available. In her nine years of volunteering with the event, Hall said the organization has had people spend the night in the parking lot.
“It’s just a wonderful program with all the dentists and dental assistants volunteering their time,” Hall said.
The volunteers will see between 800 and 1,000 patients in the two days, and the average patient will receive free dental work that averages $1,000 in cost, Hall said. One hundred dental chairs will be set up to assist patients who are underserved, uninsured and unemployed.
“So the people we serve are really the people who need” the help, Hall said.
Garner Morgan, who shares a dental office with his son, Luke M. Morgan, and three other dentists at Luke M. Morgan DDS & Associates in Mechanicsville, said he attended training in Virginia a few years ago to learn how to conduct a Mission of Mercy dental screening.
The dental screenings are held every other year, Garner Morgan said, because preparation and organizing for the event takes a year. The dental screenings were held at Chopticon High School in 2012. Morgan, his son and the three other dentists who make up their practice will be among the 100 dentists from across the state participating in the two days of screenings.
“Very rewarding,” said Morgan, who lives in St. Mary’s County. “The patients are very grateful. There’s a huge need.”
Morgan said he remembers working on a patient at a previous screening who needed a few teeth extracted. After the patient left, Morgan said his assistant was in tears because the patient said he had had a toothache for three years. Morgan also talked of a woman who brought a sleeping bag and slept in the parking lot the night before in order to get a spot in the screening.
“The people are hard-working Americans” without medical insurance, Morgan said. He said the patients seen at screenings are not only without dental but also medical insurance coverage.
Each patient receives a checkup prior to a dental screening and is asked to share their medical history so that the volunteer dentists can better serve them, Morgan said. Local physicians are on hand to conduct checkups, but also in case of emergencies. Morgan said one year a woman had a heart attack before she reached a dentist chair.
The dental screenings are made possible, Morgan said, with the help of the health departments in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
“And we couldn’t do it without their help,” Morgan said.
Hall said extractions, X-rays, cleanings, fillings and root canals will be done at the dental screenings. In the past, denture repairs and replacements also have taken place, but Hall said they will not be available this year.
One hundred volunteers are needed, Hall said, to serve as patient escorts inside the school during the dental screenings and to help with parking. When patients come in, they will receive a health screening by a nurse, including a blood pressure check.
Throughout the process, each patient is escorted by a volunteer, “and the people that come are so appreciative,” Hall said.
The two days of dental screenings, Hall said, cost about $70,000, which is paid for by grants from dental companies and “the generosity of the local community.”