Every so often we hear about large dental clinics for the underprivileged happening at the Fairgrounds or other large venues, and we think “what a great idea!”
But from the perspective of those who qualify for such services, the events are virtually unreachable due to the transportation issues and work schedules that those families deal with on a daily basis.
Finally, for the first time in Fuquay-Varina’s history, one of these major dental service events is being held in Fuquay-Varina, making it much more accessible to the families in our community who need it.
North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM) is an organization that provides portable free dental clinics around the state. Sponsored by the North Carolina Dental Health Fund (NCDHF), which is governed by the North Carolina Dental Society, this organization is designed to address “access to care” problems that our most underserved populations face. It is a grassroots effort manned by volunteers from the dental industry and community volunteers and funded by grants and donations from the public.
Thanks to the efforts of Jon Hansel of Nobel Biocare, NCMOM will be spearheading a free dental clinic on July 29th and 30th at the old Stephens Hardware building at 405 E. Broad Street in downtown Varina. No appointment is necessary. Dental care is offered on a first-come, first-served basis until they reach capacity for the day.
Doors open at 6am and organizers recommend that people begin to line up in the very early morning hours. Some people even start gathering as early as midnight the night before a clinic opens! The number of patients that can be seen each day is dependent upon the number of volunteers that sign up to perform services, but they anticipate being able to help at least 600 people per day.
When arriving at the clinic, a patient first waits in line before getting to patient registration volunteers. At registration, the person’s need is discussed so that they can be directed to the appropriate station for care. A health history is completed and blood pressure is checked. X-rays can be taken on site, and those are completed before the patient is given a thorough dental exam. After the dental exam, patients are taking to the treatment waiting area before receiving their treatment.
NCMOM currently has enough equipment to staff 80 dental chair stations in every clinic, and because they only do one type of service per person, they are set up to be able to help as many as 1,000 patients per day, depending on the availability of providers. A patient can expect to get one of three services at a visit – extractions, fillings, or a cleaning (partials are sometimes offered, but not at the Fuquay-Varina event). While a dentist can handle several extractions or several fillings at a time, they cannot do extractions AND fillings on the same person because it requires different equipment.
All patients are examined by a licensed dentist and assisted by a certified dental hygienist at each visit. These professionals donate their time and expertise and come from clinics all across the Triangle. NCMOM has a great relationship with several area dental schools, so there are often some dental students on hand to examine and perform services. Those students are supervised by their professors and are only able to perform services that they have been trained to do in a clinic setting.
NCMOM states that although this clinic is primarily organized to handle adult patients, some children can be served. Parents who wish to have children seen should contact Dr. Bill Blaylock through the NCMOM program at (919) 234-4037.
Services are available to anyone whose family income is less than 200% above the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines. Although patients do not need to bring proof of income to the event, they will have to sign an income disclosure statement when they register for services. Check the table to determine eligibility:
Organizers have some tips and tricks for those who anticipate attending the event. They recommend wearing comfortable clothing and bringing snacks (food and drink) for the hours they are waiting in line. They also recommend bringing something to do, such as playing cards, books to read, puzzle books, etc.
Patients should bring their IDs, any medication they need, and physicians statements detailing any health concerns that might apply to receiving dental care. Pregnant women can receive services, but need to bring a statement from their OB/GYN doctor allowing the dentist to provide care. Anyone who suspects that they might have a gum infection needs to visit a dentist or an emergency room to make sure any infection is under control before they arrive for dental service. Any unchecked gum infection could prevent clinic staff from being able to provide dental service after hours of waiting in line.
The NC Missions of Mercy FREE dental clinic in Fuquay-Varina has been spearheaded by Clinic Lead Jon Hansel and has been made possible by large donations from the Bob Barker Company and Lane & Associates (which has a dental office on N. Main Street). Their support has made the logistics of running an event of this size manageable. A local restaurant has donated food for the volunteers for both days of the event, for which the organization is very grateful.
This first-ever clinic in SW Wake County is a very exciting development for our community! It is the first time that our own residents can literally walk to get free dental care – something we’ve never had available for them before. Many of these people do not have reliable transportation and work more than one job, which makes dental care almost inaccessible to them. We are very excited that this event will provide care to residents of our community who might otherwise not be able to get the help they need.
If you would like to support this event or events like it, you can contact Pam McKinney at the NC Dental Health Foundation at (919) 234-4037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.