Patients received both medical and dental screenings, as well as panoramic dental x-rays, Nall said. Volunteer dentists offered fillings, tooth extractions, cleanings, partial dentures, and crowns, among other services.
Dr. Mel Weissburg, who volunteered to do endodontic and root canal work, said the clinic’s dental care can change the lives of the patients being served.
“They are embarrassed because they have missing or cavities in their front teeth,” Weissburg told the Catholic Standard. “They get cleaned up, they get filled, and now they can smile. They can smile when they’re working, they can get a job. The socio-economic impact on that patient and their family, and their children and our society...goes a long way.”
Nalls said patients are extremely appreciative to be receiving care they otherwise could not afford.
“With tears in their eyes, they were grateful,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event. That’s why the volunteers keep coming back, it’s so rewarding to see the immediate response of the people that you’re taking care of, and that the need is so great…Why else would you sleep on a sidewalk overnight?”
One volunteer, Teresa Villanueva, said this is her third time volunteering at the event. She told the Catholic Standard that she is touched to see the suffering of those who do not have insurance.
“Every time they do these events, my heart is joyful,” she said.
Nalls said dental care is sometimes undervalued, both by individuals and the health care system in general.
“There’s no money in the Affordable Care Act for dental services,” he noted. “Dentistry is the red-headed stepchild of the health care industry. It’s treated as if it’s optional or something.”
In reality, he said, dental care is a “very important part of our holistic health” and can cause severe pain and difficulty functioning if problems are left untreated.
With the high turnout showing a continuing need for affordable dental care, Nalls said Catholic Charities will continue to hold Mission of Mercy events in the future.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to sometime soon - if the support system changes and Medicaid covers adult dental, we won’t need to do these,” he said. “But until they do, there’ll be a huge need, and we’ll continue to try to address it as best we can.”