A free two-day dental clinic will be making its way to Stillwater in February. The 11th annual Oklahoma Mission of Mercy will be held Feb. 7-8 at the Payne County Expo Center.
Since its first year in 2010, Oklahoma Mission of Mercy has donated more than $12 million in dental services to 16,138 patients throughout the state.
It is an event that can provide free dental care to people in areas where either financial means or distance from service can prevent people from receiving dental care they need.
Dr. Chris Leslie, co-chair for the 2020 Mission of Mercy, said there is a multitude of benefits for people when they receive the dental care.
“It will be a life-changing event for a lot of folks,” Leslie said. “Not only the patients who are receiving care, but the volunteers as well. It’s a great opportunity for people who don’t have the financial means to receive dental care, both from finances or location, so it gives them a whole different level of confidence when they feel good about their oral health.
“And for some folks, there have been a number of stories where it makes people more employable. They feel more confident to apply for a job, or often times appearances are very important for a job, so it makes them more employable as an applicant.”
The event is made up entirely of volunteers, with about 1,500 needed to make the event a success. Leslie said there are groups such as the Oklahoma Dental Association, the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and the Delta Dental Foundation of Oklahoma that attend and help with the event every year.
There will also be members from several Stillwater area dental offices, as well aid from civic groups, churches and others who will donate their time to the event. Restaurants in Stillwater are also sought on a donation basis, as food will be provided to volunteers and attendees of the event.
The registration period for volunteer signups began Oct. 15, and anyone who is interested in either volunteering for the event or donating can visit okmom.org. The site also has a list of needs that people can provide to the Mission of Mercy event.
The dental services offered during the event include cleanings, fillings, extractions, limited root canals, immunizations and more. Leslie said the priority will be whatever each individual patient requires.
“We run the whole scope of dental care there,” Leslie said. “We really want to focus on their biggest need, whether that is a tooth ache or a dental cleaning … but we see people of all ages. It’s first come, first serve. If they show up, we’re going to do our best to take care of whatever need they have. We can make false teeth for people on limited basis, we can do cleanings, root canals, fillings, we can remove teeth … so there’s a wide array of treatment depending on the specific need.”
Due to a high volume of attendees, people should be prepared to spend the majority of the day at the clinic. Service begins at 6 a.m. both days, and it is suggested that parents bringing children should be prepared with all appropriate supplies, such as diapers, bottles and food. Patients receiving treatment must also have a blood pressure level under 180/100, blood sugar level under 300 and have no fever or illness at the time of the event.
Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Services that are not offered include braces, dentures (replacement of all teeth), root canals on back teeth, wisdom teeth extractions, night guards and implants. There are no appointments required and no insurance or identification are required.
With this event having helped Oklahomans for more than a decade, the fact it is coming to Stillwater will provide services to many in our community who might not have been able to receive dental treatment otherwise.
“For me personally, it really brings my attention back to why I got into dentistry in the first place,” Leslie said. “To be able to care for people and make a difference in their lives, so again it brings strong attention to the fact that there are so many thousands of Oklahomans who are in need of dental care and aren’t able to get it. It’s exciting to be able to make a difference in their life and just brighten their day, brighten their year a bit by doing that.”