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Free Oklahoma care events help those who need dental work

An estimated 58 percent of adult Oklahomans did not have their teeth cleaned in the past year. Dental organizations are working together to help change that.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 26, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: January 26, 2014

Many Oklahomans aren't going to the dentist, unless in some cases when dentists come to them.

About 1.4 million Oklahomans are without dental care benefits, according to the Oklahoma Dental Association.

An estimated 58 percent of adult Oklahomans did not have their teeth cleaned in the past year, according to the state Health Department. Additionally, 27 percent of Oklahomans older than 64 years of age have complete tooth loss.

In an attempt to get more Oklahomans access to dental care, nonprofit organizations are working together to organize free events where residents can get care, free of charge.

The Oklahoma Mission of Mercy is one such effort.

The Mission of Mercy is a no-cost two-day dental clinic that has become an annual event in the state.

Since 2010, Oklahoma Mission of Mercy has treated 7,525 patients, equaling more than $4 million in donated dental services. About 1,600 volunteers make the event possible, including dentists, hygienists, assistants, office staff and language translators, according to the organization.

This year's event is Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center in Enid. Doors open at 5 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday, although people begin lining up long before.

“They will camp out all night just to ensure they're going to make it in to be treated at the Mission of Mercy,” Dr. Tim Fagan, president of the Oklahoma Dental Association, said. “And it's just overwhelming for me to see what people will actually endure to get some free dental care.”

Later in the year, Remote Area Medical Oklahoma hosts a free health care expedition August 16 and August 17 at the Oklahoma Expo Hall at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. The organization provides free dental, vision and limited medical care, including women's health.

Beyond annual events, the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and Delta Dental of Oklahoma Oral Health Foundation have a MobileSmiles Oklahoma program that travels across the state, providing dental care.

The MobileSmiles program includes two RVs with two dental chairs inside each vehicle. The vehicles travel across Oklahoma, providing dental care to children and adults who otherwise would not likely get that care.

One week, the unit might be at a school. The next week, it might be at a mental health treatment center or a free clinic. Nonprofit organizations sponsor the units for $600.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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