Reporting Colin Smith
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More than 1,000 dentists, hygienists and volunteers will provide $1 million in free care this weekend, part of the Minnesota Mission of Mercy campaign.
The event, celebrating its second straight year, will be held at the Bemidji Sanford Center June 14-15, treating long-overdue fillings, extractions and root canals.
“The sight often brings you to tears,” said Carmelo Cinqueonce, Executive Director of the Minnesota Dental Association. “To see people getting the care that they desperately need and be free of that pain is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.”
The 2012 event, held in Mankato, helped 2,062 patients with more than $1.3 million in free dental work.
It’s a first-come, first-serve process expected to attract more than 2,000 patients to Bemidji this year.
“It’s incredible to see these patients line up 24 to 48 hours ahead of time,” Cinqueonce said. “You have to pause and remind yourself that they’re not waiting for an iPhone, they’re waiting for basic dental care.”
Adults and children of all ages are welcome. No photo identification, social security number or any other personal documentation is required. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian
Dental services not provided include: crowns or root canals on molars, full dentures, dental implants and wisdom teeth removal.
An estimated 100 million Americans do not have dental insurance. While the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect later this year, provides comprehensive pediatric care, how the law will impact general dental coverage is still unclear.
Mission of Mercy was founded in 2000 in Virginia. Alejandro Aguirre, a Plymouth dentist, has worked since 2006 to bring the event to Minnesota.
Michigan recently became the 26th state to participate in the program, pushing the nation over 50 percent participation.
“Everybody has a smile, from the volunteers to the dentists to the patients,” Dr. Aguirre said. “Yes, we address dental pain and infection, but as importantly is that missing tooth, or teeth, that is undermining someone’s self-esteem — (fixing that is) very big.”
Cash donations for the event exceed $200,000, supplying dental equipment, pharmaceuticals and food. The signature sponsor is Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. More information is available here.
DATE: Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15. Doors open at 5:30 a.m. on both days
WHERE: Sanford Center, 1111 Events Center, Bemidji