The Iowa Mission of Mercy, which provides free dental care during annual events in Iowa, released last weekend’s results from Sioux City:
Officials from the Iowa Mission of Mercy in Sioux City were pleased with this year’s results.
More than 500 dental professionals from across the state saw more 1,700 individuals and provided free oral health care that exceeded $1 million. Before this weekend, previous Iowa Mission of Mercy programs had seen almost 4,500 patients and provided nearly $2.5 million in free dental care.
“The thin layer of ice concerned us on Saturday morning,” said Dr. Dick Hettinger, state chair of the Iowa Mission of Mercy and a Sioux City dentist. “But Mother Nature cannot compete with the generosity of the hundreds of volunteers that were ready to treat Siouxland patients. For many of our patients, this was their one opportunity to address critical oral health care issues. It was not uncommon to hear patients talk about living with tooth pain for months and, in some cases, even for years.”
The Iowa Mission of Mercy is a free, two-day clinic that is in a different Iowa city each year. With previous stops in Waterloo, Newton and Cedar Rapids, officials knew they wanted to have the event on the western side of the state.
“The idea of moving the event to different cities is to be able to reach out to different groups of Iowans each year,” Dr. Hettinger said. “Since we started four years ago, I had wanted to bring this to my home community because I knew there was a need. I think we served the people of Siouxland well, but the Iowa Mission of Mercy attracts people from all over the state. Many of our volunteers and patients drove here from all over the state and, in some cases, from neighboring states such as Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska.”
Dr. Hettinger thanked the nearly 1,200 dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and lay volunteers for donating their time and talents to the fourth annual Iowa MOM. “Without the generous donations from our dental professionals and lay volunteers, we wouldn’t have an event,” he said. “For many of our patients, this is their best access to oral health care they have. The stories are all compelling. One person has limited dental insurance that only covered a single cleaning in a year, but she needed to have several teeth filled and couldn’t afford it. Another said he couldn’t afford dental insurance in retirement. The common thread is many of our patients need costly work done and have put it off because they didn’t have the means to do it.”
“No matter where we are, there will be at least as great a demand for these services as there were this weekend,” he said. “Until there are significant changes in Medicaid and other public health programs, the largest barrier to oral health care remains significant underfunding. And, until those changes are made, the dental community in Iowa is committed to the Iowa Mission of Mercy.”
The details of next year’s Iowa MOM are still being finalized and an announcement will be made after the first of the year.