Cumberland Times-News

October 15, 2013

Mission of Mercy clinic to offer free oral health care

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — For anyone needing oral health care who can’t afford to go to a dentist, the Western Maryland Mission of Mercy clinic could be a godsend.

This will be the fourth year for the clinic at the Allegany County Fairgrounds multipurpose building. The clinic is set for Oct. 25 and 26 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., said Mary Beth Pirolozzi, executive director of County United Way.

The clinic is still looking for volunteers, about 400 to 500 are needed for the two-day clinic.

“We are looking for a big crowd,” Pirolozzi said. “It’s a really big operation ... but one of the most heartwarming events in which I have been able to participate.”

Patients over the years have come from seven states and 22 counties in those seven states, Pirolozzi said, with about 850 people served each year. That’s a total of more than a million dollars of free dental services in the years the clinic has been in existence. Dental emergencies are one of the major reasons for hospital emergency room visits, and the MOM clinic is a way to cut back on the need for those visits by helping people before their dental problem becomes an emergency, Pirolozzi said.

There’s a great need in the area, according to the clinic’s website.

“Allegany County leads the state of Maryland in natural tooth loss. More than 20 percent of our population is considered to be in poverty. More than 15 percent of people have not been to a dentist in five-plus years,” according to the website.

About 60 chairs will be available, said Laura Offstein, practice administrator at Dr. Diane D. Romaine’s office. Romaine coordinates the professional volunteers for the event.

Some of the dental chairs will be used for prescreening and triage, but most for treatment. More specialists in root canal work will be present, allowing more of those to be performed, but no molar root canals will be performed, Offstein said. Dentists and hygienists from three states, although the majority from Maryland, will volunteer their services; that includes about 70 dentists.

The cost of the clinic is about $52,000, Offstein said. The main sponsors are CareFirst and the Office of Oral Health for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Equipment will be provided by Henry Schein Inc., a Fortune 500 company specializing in dental supplies, among other fields.

Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis; the last clients each day will probably be taken at 3 p.m., Pirolozzi said, so it’s wise to arrive early.

Pirolozzi spoke to county commissioners about the clinic Thursday at their regular business meeting.

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Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at