e-mail Print Share

Rhode Island Dentists Hope Two-Day Free Clinic Will Alleviate ER Burden

June 19, 2014 

Rhode Island dentists are trying to cut down on the number of people visiting emergency rooms for preventable dental conditions through a two-day event at which they treated those in need for free.

Dentists treated more than 750 people May 31 through June 1 during their annual Mission of Mercy, a free dental clinic held at the Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln. 

“Our goal was to take care of urgent needs like infections, swelling and pain by taking out teeth and doing fillings,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dodge, president of Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation. “It is our hope that by providing these types of services, we can try to alleviate the burden on local emergency rooms to provide treatment best handled by dentists. At the same time, we hope to educate people about the importance of good oral health to prevent them from having dental disease in the future.”

About 100 dentists, in concert with other dental professionals, performed approximately 3,400 procedures during the two-day event, said Dr. Dodge. The value of care is estimated to be close to $500,000.
But the care didn’t stop with the patients’ mouths, he noted.

“Since Rhode Island is such a small state, we take a more multi-faceted view,” said Dr. Dodge.

Lifespan, Rhode Island's first health system that includes five partner hospitals, offered vaccinations for pneumonia, as well as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Patients also had the option of being tested for Hepatitis C and HIV.   

“If they test positive for HIV or Hepatitis C, the people in charge of that testing have a plan to first get them more medically accurate testing, and then arrange for continuing care, transportation, counseling, or anything else that they might need,” said Dr. Dodge. 

The Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation started the two-day event two years ago. 

The Missions of Mercy concept started in Virginia in 2000. Since then, Missions of Mercy have served more than 143,000 people in 28 states across the country, providing about $90 million in free services, according to America’s Dentists Care Foundation.