The Dentist Is In
By Kelly Medinger
Mission of Mercy uses health care grant to launch new mobile dental clinic
A group of 50 people or so sit in a church hall, waiting for their name to be called so they can see a doctor or a dentist. “Just look at them waiting here, and then look at their faces when they get off the van,” one patient remarks.
About Mission of Mercy
Started 25 years ago and operating in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Arizona, Mission of Mercy attracts hundreds of medical volunteers who see patients at local sites that host the organization’s traveling medical and dental clinics.
“Mission of Mercy is a medical home for patients who do not have insurance or cannot afford care,” shares Jennifer White, Development Director. For example, 70% of patients at the four clinic sites in Maryland have chronic health issues that require regular care and monitoring, and Mission of Mercy will provide all of their medications, lab work, and doctor’s visits free-of-charge.
Responding to the Need for Dental Care
“We have a real dental crisis in the United States,” explains Linda Ryan, Mission of Mercy’s Executive Director. Dental care is not included in the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, or Medicaid, and supplemental dental insurance is expensive. Combine that with a dearth of general dentistry practitioners, and people are putting off regular dental care until a crisis emerges.
In responding to this need, Mission of Mercy recently launched a new mobile dental clinic, complete with three patient chairs and professional dental equipment, to double the number of patients they serve. The Knott Foundation contributed to the $1 million fundraising campaign, which included purchasing and fully outfitting the mobile dental clinic and funding its first two years of operations.
With the new mobile dental clinic, Mission of Mercy is able to see more patients, as well as store and utilize more high-end instrumentation.
Enter Dr. Roslyn Kellum, DDS, the Dental Director at Mission of Mercy, and a team of volunteer dentists from the communities the clinic serves. Dr. Kellum (who is both a dentist and registered nurse) and the volunteer dentists provide dental care to their patients, but also refer them to the medical clinic for issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. “You can tell a lot about somebody’s health just by looking in their mouth,” Ryan remarks.
Looking at the faces of patients climbing down the stairs of the new dental van, their smile says it all: “I get pleasure and great joy in restoring patients’ smiles because all smiles matter,” concludes Dr. Kellum.