Free dental care provided to thousands of Arizonans this weekend


by Tami Hoey

Video report by Steve Bodinet

Posted on December 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 7 at 7:24 PM

PHOENIX – Valley dentists are coming together to give free smiles to thousands of needy patients.

More than 1,500 dentists, hygienists, lab techs, support staff and other volunteers have set up shop on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Bringing in dental chairs, X-Ray machines and other equipment, they've transformed the area into a large-scale dental clinic.

This weekend’s event, called “One Million Reasons to Smile” is sponsored by the Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy, a project of the Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation.

Adults and children of all ages are able to get critical dental work done at no cost. About a million dollars in free care is expectd to be delivered to more than two thousand patients.

The clinic is providing work on a first come, first served basis.

The emphasis will be on relieving pain and infections for those who are unable to receive dental care, such as fillings, extractions, cleanings, as well as limited lab work.

Adults and children who do not have medically compromising conditions, such as extremely high blood pressure or severe disabilities, are welcome.

"Arizona residents suffer from higher rates of dental disease than many other states, and this is one way we can give back to the community while providing critical dental care to those who need it most," said Dr. Mark Hughes, a Glendale dentist and Community Chair of the Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation. "We also hope to raise awareness about the increasing difficulties that low-income adults and children face in accessing necessary dental care."

A recent survey found that 21 percent of Arizona adults and 31 percent of Arizona children have never had a dental check-up.

Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy originated in Virginia, and has expanded throughout the United States. More than 70 Mission of Mercy dental programs have been conducted since the year 2000, providing free dental care to local residents who otherwise were unable to receive it.

The free dental clinic runs: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday Dec. 8. Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona Fairgrounds is located at 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix.

For more information, click here.