Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2,000 expected at free dental clinic in Hutchinson

The Wichita Eagle

"Organizers expect at least 2,000 people to seek free dental care at this weekend's Kansas Mission of Mercy dental clinic in Hutchinson.

The Sunflower building at the Kansas State Fairgrounds will open Thursday night, when organizers expect people to begin gathering. The free clinic opens at 5:30 a.m. Friday.

"Honestly, based on the last several projects we have done, it would not surprise me if the first patients are there by the middle of the afternoon on Thursday," said Greg Hill, executive director of the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation.

Because large crowds and many hours of waiting are expected, Hill said, people can wait in the heated Sunflower building. People are encouraged to bring sleeping bags.

Dental procedures will be done in the neighboring Meadowlark building.

"By the time we open on Friday, I expect there will be about 800 or so patients waiting,'' Hill said.

Beginning in 2003, the foundation started hosting free dental clinics aimed at low-income and uninsured people.

The first clinic was in Garden City and modeled after similar ones in Virginia and Texas. Other clinics have been held in other regions of the state including Kansas City, Independence, Pittsburg, Salina, Topeka and Wichita.

Patients targeted are those in need of urgent dental care, including extraction, fillings and cleanings.

"We will treat people with no money, no insurance, no proof of income — assuming we are able to provide the care they need," Hill said. "We will do as much as we can without any charge to the patients."

Since they began, the dental clinics have served more than 17,500 people and provided more than $8.5 million in dental care.

A volunteer effort, this clinic will include 136 dentists, 133 hygienists, 183 dental assistants, 30 medical personnel and 450 community volunteers to help serve food and provide escorts for patients.

Volunteers come from across the state, with many dentists volunteering their own time and even paying for their staff to assist them, Hill said.

"It is very much a charitable, giving project," he said. "It becomes a large contribution."

Because waits are expected to be long, volunteers serve breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Interpreters will also be available to help patients who don't speak English. "

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2011/01/18/1678784/2000-expected-at-free-dental-clinic.html#ixzz1BQPnlqOX

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