Volunteers from all across the nation gathered in San Antonio, Texas for the shared purpose of bridging the gap to oral care for patients unable to attain dental care due to financial reasons. During October 11-12, the ADA Mission of Mercy (MOM) transformed the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center into a fully functioning oral care center. On Saturday, the center was equipped with portable dental chairs and tables necessary to perform X-rays, sterilizations, exams, fillings, extractions, oral surgeries, endodontic treatment and even prosthodontic treatment. Many of the patients waited in line outside of the convention center for hours because they wanted the opportunity to receive free oral care which many had gone without for multiple years.
I was one of the predental students who volunteered my time to the ADA MOM with the hope of helping make a difference in the oral care of the community. When I arrived at the convention center at 5 a.m. the line already seemed to go on forever and the patients were eagerly anticipating their treatments. I assisted multiple dentists with notations and educating patients about the importance of regular oral care throughout the event. Working as a volunteer and a translator, I was tasked with speaking to patients who had been turned away due to the filled up treatment areas. Telling patients they would not receive oral treatment was the most heartbreaking assignment I had while working in the clinic. On the other hand, telling patients which had been initially turned down they were in fact going to receive treatment was the most satisfying part of my time in the clinic.
According to the ADA more than 1,200 patients were treated, including the delivery of six full sets of dentures. The total value of dental treatment received was $526,474. The total cost to patients was nothing except for their time.
This year we made a significant impact in the oral care needs of San Antonio and hopefully will do the same next year when the ADA MOM is held in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 2015. If you are interested in helping other MOM events check your state website for upcoming MOM events or sign up for next year’s ADA MOM. I hope to see you next year!
Have you attended MOM in your state? Let us know in the comments!
~Ileana Lozano, University of Texas Pan-American ’14, predental member