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To provide charitable dental care and education to Arizonans, reducing health risks and suffering for those in need.
The Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation will host its first Mission of Mercy (MOM) event at the Arizona Fairgrounds in Phoenix, AZ, December 7 & 8, 2012 utilizing 100 portable dental units and 950 volunteers. Approximately $1,000,000 in free care is expected to be delivered to 2,000 patients - both children and adults will be seen. The emphasis will be on basic dental care such as fillings, extractions and cleanings. Limited lab work (i.e., stainless-steel crowns for children, treatment partials) will be offered. The program is unable to treat patients with specific medically-compromising conditions (e.g., extremely high blood pressure, severe disabilities).
Originating in Virginia and spreading throughout the United States, more than 70 Mission of Mercy (MOM) dental programs have been conducted since 2000 to provide free dental care to local residents who otherwise were unable to receive such care. A successful MOM event focuses on:
- providing free access to dental care while placing a high priority on patients suffering from dental infections or pain;
- raising public awareness of the increasing difficulty low-income adults and children face in accessing critical dental care; and
- Creating health care advocates via the hundreds of lay volunteers participating in the event.
Arizona residents suffer from higher rates of dental disease and benefit less from proven preventive methods than other states. A recent survey revealed that 21% of Arizona adults and 31% of Arizona children have never had a dental check-up.
This lack of attention has substantial costs for affected individuals and society. For many, oral conditions severely interfere with eating, sleeping, speaking, learning, working and playing. Oral health is inseparable from overall health and well-being.
The good news is that most oral diseases are preventable. Even so, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease among children: five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. When compared to the nation, Arizona children fare poorly. In Arizona, 5% of children ages 6 months through 2 years have had tooth decay. By the time children reach 11 to 13 years, over 65% have experienced tooth decay, and by the time adults reach age 45, more than 99 percent have had decay.
Additionally, Arizonans report one of their major barriers to receiving dental services relates to finances. While 24% of Arizonans lack medical insurance, over 44% of adults and 38% of children lack dental insurance.
In summary, more Arizonans have dental disease than found nationally, while many report difficulty accessing dental services. Efforts, such as Arizona’s first Mission of Mercy project, serving over 2,000 individuals, are needed to improve the oral health for children and adults in this state.
Visit the America's Dentists Care Foundation's website for a list of FAQs about MOM events around the country.
- Megan Vrooman
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