Here’s what some of the volunteers were saying at the 2012 Illinois Mission of Mercy:
“This is my opportunity to give back to our communities. I really enjoyed participating in the 2010 Mission of Mercy; many of the patients I worked with were so thankful and so happy. And I knew that in this economy there would be more work to do this weekend.
“One of the patients I worked with today was a woman in her 50s from St. Louis. She’s been unemployed for three years, and she’s staying in a homeless shelter this weekend so that she can come here to get a root canal and glasses. She said it was worth it for her to make the trip.
“I believe that helping other people is priceless; we can not put a value on it. The ways that strangers are helping each other here is driving home that humanity is not dead and there is still good in this world.”
-Denise Hale, dentist
“We had a long day of set up Thursday, but I was still excited to get over here Friday and open the doors. It was a good tired.
“We came back at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday and talked to some of the patients who were already in line. That was a real boost to the spirit to talk with them, and it made it that much more exciting to open the doors this morning.
“There is so much need in our state, and nowhere for patients to go. This is but a Band-Aid on the system, but we’re bringing it to the people who need it, and I love being a part of that. I talked to a patient this morning who had extractions and fillings and got a partial for her four front teeth, and she was thrilled. She said her birthday is coming up in August, and she’s really going to celebrate it.”
State co-chair for the 2012 Illinois Mission of Mercy
“We’ve got 16 chairs and 100 volunteers in the hygiene area this weekend. We’re seeing lots of adults with special needs and middle-income adults who are suddenly without jobs or insurance, and we’re really promoting getting back in line for extra care that they need while they’re here.
“We’re seeing a lot of families, and we’re able to educate the moms while they’re here. We had one little girl here who has never eaten an apple because her teeth hurt too much. And we saw a woman without front teeth come in for a cleaning, and she was crying when the dentist said we’d be able to get her a flipper today. She said, ‘Now I can go look for a job.’
“I hope one day we’re out of a job. My motto is that we save the world one tooth at a time.”
-Tami Wanless, hygienist
“I think the message to legislators is that our profession cares about giving back. We’ve got the entire dental family working together here today, as well as a public/private partnership teaming up with the professional organizations. It’s a tremendous model for other entities in our state to follow.
“I think when you look at the whole event lawmakers will see that oral health is part of overall health, and that’s why these groups are coming together here. There are a lot of adults who need help and are getting it here; what will they do next?
“I’ve been working on a complicated third molar extraction, as well as a situation where we were getting some teeth out and an immediate denture in. It’s for a young man; it will really change his life, and it would have been quite costly in a private setting.”
-David Miller, dentist
Chief, Division of Oral Health, Illinois Department of Public Health
“We’re all out here because giving is contagious. We all do it in our offices all the time, but when we get together to do it, there’s a spontaneous, combustible explosion, and it’s awesome.
“People are so pleased with the streamlined expediency of their experience. They’re getting comprehensive care and they’re not being treated any differently than any of our other patients.”
-David Fulton Jr., dentist
“More and more people are needing more work done now that Medicaid is being cut back. I’m really enjoying the benefits of having physicians here on site to address some of the other issues we’re hearing about and dispense the medications the patients needs. To be able to go just a few more steps and have some of your other needs met — I think more and more of our dental patients are taking advantage of that.”
-Mary Starsiak, dentist
“Part of being a dentist is service. Sometimes the goal isn’t monetary, but just to help your fellow man. With the current state of jobs and insurance and Medicaid, this is the only care some patients can get.
This year, having the whole medical team here with us in one place, we can get so much more done to try and be preventive.”
-Richard Holba, dentist
“There’s lots of work that all builds to these two days. But it makes it worth it when you see people finally coming in the doors, some of whom have been camping out overnight get the care they need. Dentistry is a generous service profession, and it’s exciting to work this weekend with other medical professionals on site.
“People are desperate. There is lots of dental need in our communities, and things are getting worse. The patients who are coming through here are surprised at how much we can do for them and that it’s all free.
“Patients can walk out and find that we’ve given them a smile or a new lease on life — it can be a turning point for many of these patients. I want them all to leave with hope.”
-Brad Barnes, dentist
Clinical Chair for the 2012 Illinois Mission of Mercy
“Patients have some really poignant stories, and as soon as you hear them you know why you’re here. We’re all giving up and sacrificing something to be here, but it felt really good to open the doors this morning. This can be life-saving and changing for the patients on the receiving end.”
-Jay Landers, Executive Director
Illinois State Dental Society Foundation