VIRGINIA – Nearly 1,000 patients are expected to receive free dental care at Northern Virginia Community College’s medical campus during the the seventh annual Mission of Mercy program.
Every year, hundreds of volunteer dentists, nurses and other health professionals help treat low-income residents who need dental care. Those residents lined up early and waited in line for hours to receive a free service that, without dental insurance, can cost thousands.
Shenita Knight has never had dental insurance. With no job, a visit to the dentist was not an option. “Dental costs are so high. A lot of people can’t afford to go, so we have to wait for the best opportunity that comes available and this is it, so we have to take advantage of it,” said Knight.
During the economic slump, chief dentist Howard Kelley says dental insurance is often a commodity that’s given up. “They think they can do without dentistry longer than they can do without anything else. Unfortunately, those of us in the field recognize that the mouth is a portal to the rest of the body, and if you don’t have a healthy mouth, you’re in trouble.”
Nearly a quarter of a million dollars was donated for supplies and services. Dentists performed services from cleaning to filling cavities and even extracting teeth.