This year, as of 3 a.m. on Friday, July 26, over 250 people were already lined up outside PPG Paints Arena – the city’s downtown hockey arena. A few hours later at 6 a.m., the 2019 Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh Free Dental Clinic opened its doors to the community.
In the two days that followed, 1,302 patients received hope and healing at the hands of 1,469 care providers. The clinic provides services at no charge to adults and children age 2 and up; there are no income or eligibility requirements. Patients – many from working families – attend because they lack dental insurance or access to dental care.
A solution born out of need
The idea for establishing an annual dental care event in Pittsburgh was born out of conversations between Dr. Daniel Pituch; Dr. Richard M. Celko; and Michael Zamagias, chairman and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh-based healthcare technology company TeleTracking, Inc., who together saw the need in the community to provide this service on an annual basis.
In 2017 it came to fruition in the form of Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh, a free, two-day dental clinic, presented by A Call to Care, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.
‘No patient is turned away due to lack of capacity’
What keeps it rolling? The entire event is run and staffed by volunteers.
- 176 Dentists (9 Endodontists, 7 Non-clinical, 11 Pediatric Dentists, 4 Prosthodontists, 4 Radiologists, 73 Restorative, 5 Routing, 46 Surgery, 17 Triage)
- 90 Hygienists
- 164 TeleTracking employees
Hear them in action in an NPR report by WESA’s Katie Blackley: https://www.npr.org/2019/08/01/747190755/1-300-wait-for-free-dental-care-in-pittsburgh?fbclid=IwAR21gRHACVlx8Qx3r41sJ_skLDvaJBenFg9qAT5dHyIjJT4f4WWpNy8IM9c
The costs of presenting (PPG Paints Arena rental, materials, dental equipment, supplies, and more) are made possible by the generosity of dedicated partners, sponsors and funders, according to Kayleigh Fontana, Marketing Campaign Manager for TeleTracking.
“The clinic has grown each year, increasing the number of dental chairs (from 50 chairs in 2017 to 100 chairs in 2019) and volunteers each year to meet the need. No patient is turned away due to lack of capacity.”Kayleigh Fontana, Marketing Campaign Manager for TeleTracking.
How does it make a difference?
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.
Services provided include:
* full dental exam,
* minor restorative fillings,
* root canal treatments on select teeth,
* oral hygiene instruction, and
* temporary partial dental appliances
Data gathered from a survey of Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh patients in 2018 revealed that 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.
Research shows that 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. 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.
Want to participate in 2020?
For news on the 2020 Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh dental clinic, and opportunities to volunteer next year, follow Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MOMPGH/ and Twitter @MOM_PGH.
Want to donate or volunteer? Visit: https://mompgh.org/donate/