BALTIMORE — Dental care can often be an unfortunate afterthought for many people’s health priorities, as the lack of insurance coverage or funds inhibit access to proper oral health.
To combat this gap in wellness, the Baltimore Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic is providing free dental care to Baltimore residents this Thursday and Friday. In partnership with the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, the United Way of Central Maryland, the Maryland Dental Association Foundation, Saint Agnes Healthcare, Ascension, and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, more than 1,000 people are expected to come and receive dental care at no cost.
“These patients, some of them are in pain, some of them can’t chew or swallow, some folks have had loose teeth for years,” said Scott Gottbreht of the United Way of Central Maryland. “We see folks that are here for anything from cleanings, some people just need fillings, some people need two teeth out, some people need six teeth out. With the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, we’re able to meet absolutely all of those needs over the next two days.”
According to Gottbreht’s data, dental care is the highest unmet need in the community the United Way serves.
“Proper dental care is essential to good general health,” said Dr. Louis Depaola, the Associate Dean of Clinic Affairs for the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
This is the third year the school has participated in the free clinic, Depaola said, with 200 dental students and 50 dental faculty members servicing up to 100 patients at a time. In total, they expect to perform about $700,000 worth of dental work during the two day event.
Community members can come to the clinic in at 1100 Wicomico Street, in the city’s Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday for services ranging from oral x-rays, fillings, tooth extractions, oral exams, or dental cleanings, all at no cost.
“Many of these individuals can’t afford to see a dentists at a minimum once a year. Several of these patients haven’t seen a dentist in many years, if, in some cases, ever,” said Depoala. “So they have a lot of tooth decay and what not in their mouths that can cause infection. Some of these infections can be debilitating, and, in some instances, even life threatening.”