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Missouri Dentists Provide Care to the Underserved at Mission of Mercy Event

May 27, 2014

Missouri dentists provided care to more than 1,600 people during the state’s third annual Missouri Mission of Mercy, a two-day event where dentists come together in one location to provide free care to those who need it most.

“It’s something you had to see to believe,” said State Rep. Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves), ranking minority member, House Budget Committee. “The sheer volume of patients at this event displays a clear and undeniable need to address dental health care in our region and state.”

The event was held May 2-3 at the Chaifetz Arena at Saint Louis University, where dentists provided 412 cleanings, 903 fillings and 2,249 extractions for people unable to afford dental care.

More than a thousand dentists, hygienists and volunteers provided about a million dollars’ worth of dental care. 

“The generosity of the volunteers and sponsors of the event is truly humbling,” said Dr. Stuart Waite, co-chair of this year’s event. “We worked for many months to make this event happen, and we’re so grateful to everyone who came together to help so many people in need.”

Long lines of people waiting to receive dental care – some standing outside the arena a day before the event started – underscore the unmet need for dental care among underserved adults. 

But oral health advocates are hoping the need won’t be as great next year after the Missouri General Assembly voted on May 8 to restore dental Medicaid coverage for adults, effectively qualifying that population for care for the first time since funding was cut nearly a decade ago.

“This is a significant step in the right direction for improving both the oral and overall health of Missourians who struggle to afford dental care,” said Dr. Merle Nunemaker, president of the Missouri Dental Association (MDA).