About a month from now, hundreds of area residents will visit the Allegany County Fairgrounds to receive free dental services that they could not otherwise afford. The two-day dental clinic is conducted by the Western Maryland Mission of Mercy.
The clinic — set for Oct. 25 and 26— is one of the most impressive humanitarian programs undertaken in our region. It also is an effort that requires as many as 400 volunteers.
The tri-state area has a preponderance of residents with natural tooth loss. Historically, it also is a region that has 15 percent of its population not visiting a dentist in at least the last five years.
To reduce health risks, hundreds of volunteers have been coming together every year since 2010 to provide free dental services, including cleanings, fillings, extractions, some oral surgery, root canals, denture repair and oral hygiene education.
The volunteers have included 200 dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, oral surgeons, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and dental students. Help also is needed with security, parking, volunteer and patient registration, meals and escorting.
The clinic is made possible through the efforts of the Allegany-Garrett Dental Society, Allegany Health Right, County United Way and the Western Maryland Area Health Education Center.
The first clinic in 2010 served 810 people from seven states and 23 counties and provided $700,000 in free oral health care. In 2011, the Western Maryland Mission of Mercy served 840 patients despite snow on the second day, and provided more than $710,000 in free services.
The average person received $845 in free dental services.
Anyone wanting to volunteer can register online by clicking the “Volunteer Now!” button on the website www.westernmdmom. com/volunteer.htm or by calling the County United Way’s Community Volunteer Information line at 301-722-2700.