The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 17, 2012

First day of free dental clinic puts smiles on lots of faces

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MANKATO —

The Mission of Mercy machine is an impressive one. People lined up outside the Verizon Wireless Center by Wednesday night. When the doors opened at 5:30 a.m. Friday, patients were treated to a sea of volunteers (roughly 1,200 in all) who guided them through registration and on to the areas of care they needed.

By the end of the day, they’d hit 1,000 patients.

For kids, a special curtained area greeted them with Hello Kitty, iCarly and Sesame Street posters, and they were given stuffed animals to make their visits a little cuddlier.

A row of cubicles lined one side of the arena, X-ray machines tucked inside each one. In another area, doctors pulled painful teeth from the mouths of patients under local anesthesia. In another area, people such as Pierce were getting dentures made.

Many of them don’t have insurance. Or, like Pierce, the insurance they do have would never cover something such as partial dentures.

Ann Tabor’s dental problems go back decades, as well. She hasn’t had dental insurance for eight years, and during that time her teeth have shifted and deteriorated to the point where her dentures no longer fit properly. It’s simply easier, and more comfortable, to not wear them.

“I only have two teeth, one upper and one lower, that I can chew with,” she said. “After that long, you learn to chew with what you have.”

She’s here to get new partials. She’s also hoping to get something done about the pain that’s gotten increasingly worse in the last two weeks.

“These people are angels of mercy,” she said. “I feel so lucky that they came here.”

The Mission of Mercy program came to Mankato, Minnesota Dental Association officials said, because the Mankato-area dental community expressed great interest in bringing it here.

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