Mission of Mercy Highlights Very Best of State’s Dental CommunityAugust 18, 2016
Imagine a dental clinic so large it can treat more than 1,000 patients in just two days. There’s hundreds of dentists and dental hygienists caring for patients with fillings, extractions and dentures. More general volunteers register patients, helping them navigate through this gigantic clinic, as well as make sure that the other volunteers are well cared for.
This event, the Minnesota Mission of Mercy, happens annually – typically in mid-July – under the direction of the Minnesota Dental Association. It’s a massive production and it brings out the very best in the state’s dental community.
It was my distinct honor to volunteer once again this year for this event. I look forward to it for several different reasons. First and foremost, it’s a way to help those in need. Patients start lining up for care the night before the event because they often do not have access or the financial capability for dental care. They travel from near and far, some from several hours away, because they know that this is a rare opportunity to have their dental care addressed at no charge. Every time I complete someone’s care at Mission of Mercy, I get the most genuine “thank you” and smile from the patient. They are so grateful for our time and efforts and relieved that they have been able to take care of a dental problem that has been on their mind, often for a long time.
The fact that the patients seeking care start lining up well before the event starts and have such extensive dental needs highlights one of the main goals of Mission of Mercy – creating awareness that there are a lot of patients in our community who cannot access dental care for many reasons – lack of providers in rural areas, lack of finances and insurance, and lack of dental awareness and prevention. This event always continues to impress upon me that we have a dental care problem in our community and we must address the issue on a much larger scale than a two-day event each summer.
Another reason I look forward to the event each year is the comradery that exists between all of the volunteers. It is so much fun to work next to dentists from across Minnesota, all with one common cause in mind. Now that I have participated for a third time, faces are getting very familiar, and we all look forward to working with one another each year. My dental assistant also volunteers each year, and it’s a great team building experience. There’s such a great team atmosphere among all of the volunteers – truly the largest group practice around!
At the end of two days of non-stop dentistry – from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. – everyone is exhausted. We pack up all of the equipment and put it on the trucks so it can head out to the next Mission of Mercy in another state. In spite of the exhaustion, there are feelings of accomplishment, civility and teamwork, and most volunteers ask: when and where is it next year? My Park Dental colleagues and I will be there. We’re already looking forward to Minnesota Mission of Mercy in 2017!