There’s nothing like a friendly smile to get the day going, and today patients and volunteers from across Florida experienced countless smiles and priceless moments. Above, Dr. Reza Iranmanesh greeted volunteers with zeal.
FLA-MOM, a Large Undertaking.
At 5:00 am, I entered the Martin Luther King entrance to the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa amidst a steady stream of volunteers arriving at the Florida Dental Association’s first annual Mission of Mercy. This is the state’s first large-scale free dental event, which focuses on the priority needs of underserved patients who are willing to wait in line. Over a two-day period (Friday and Saturday), 350 dentists, specialists and dental hygienists will provide services to 2,000 patients. It will take approximately 1,000 volunteers to keep the system in motion.
Above, patients waited in the medical triage area (Photo by Tampa Bay Times photographer Eve Edelheit).
I am a patient ambassador assigned to dental triage, a six-dental-chair area. I’m glad I can easily help translate “dental speak” for patients having to sort through choices and make relatively fast priority decisions. It was wonderful to work with friends Pauline Shaw of Port Charlotte, Dr. Stephen M. Krist of Tampa and Dr. G.R. Sheumaker of Lakeland, FL.
Another thirteen focus areas are working at peak productivity—registration, medical triage, radiography, lab/prosthodontics, anesthesia, oral surgery, restorative, endodontics, hygiene, pediatric, exit administration, and patient control “command central.” At one point, I had the pleasure of accompanying and communicating for a stroke patient after he left triage to make his way through anesthesia, restorative and hygiene.
Mid-morning estimates put volunteers on the floor at 700 and 50% of the day’s 1,000 patients triaged. Like clockwork and according to plan, the flow of patients was right on target. Every patient I spoke with was extremely grateful for the opportunity to “get out of pain” and “make progress.” Over and over again, they remarked about the “well organized” nature of the event. Some of the patients I spoke with waited overnight outside the gate; others began arriving after 3:00 am to join the line.
Access to Dental Care, a Large Problem in Florida
Nearly 20 percent of Floridians don’t have adequate access to dental care, according to a report last year from Pew Charitable Trusts. The Sunshine State is one of 10 states with the worst shortages. Florida Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor, does not cover dental services for adults. It does cover children’s services, but the payment rates are so low that only about 15 percent of dentists participate in the program.
The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurers cover dental services for children but not for adults. That approach is consistent with Medicare and private health insurance programs, but still has been criticized as short-sighted by public health officials.
America’s Dentists Care Foundation (ADCF), Dedicated to Helping
The America’s Dentists Care Foundation Missions of Mercy (ADCF MOM) organization assisted the Florida Dental Association in sponsoring this event. ADCF MOM believes that individual states are positioned to provide appropriate solutions to the oral health needs of its residents. ADCF MOM has a goal of each state coordinating one or more Mission of Mercy (MOM) events annually to not only help meet unmet oral health needs but also exemplify the dedication of the state’s dental professionals to help the underserved through service and preventive education.
MOM Events, Now Held in 17 States
Mission of Mercy (MOM) events have donated dental services to under served patients for over a decade. The first dental MOM was held in Virginia in July of 2000. MOM events are now held in 17 states and are usually sponsored by state or local dental societies. Over the course of its history, 100,000+ patients have been treated, and over $50 million of donated dental services have been provided by caring dental professionals.
ADCF was established in 2008 as a nonprofit corporation to address the need for quality equipment at MOM events. In addition, ADCF offers technical assistance to new state MOM events, a comprehensive “how to” manual as well as a national schedule of state events—that will be maintained and made available through the ADCF Web site. ADCF serves as a depository for national data collected from every state event. This information provides visibility to the oral health needs of America’s underserved.
Large Charitable Support for FLA-MOM Appreciated
Support from additional nonprofits and corporations is making this weekend’s event possible. Thanks go to:
- Alliance of the Florida Dental Association
- Florida Association of Endodontists
- Florida Association of Orthodontists
- Florida Association of Periodontology
- Florida Prosthodontic Association
- Hillsborough County Dental Association
- More Health
- Upper Pinellas County Dental Association
- West Coast District Dental Association
- Regions Bank
- Advanced Medical Disposal
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida
- Brandon Regional Hospital
- Brown & Brown Insurance
- Delta Dental
- Dental Health Wellness
- Great Expressions Dental Centers
- Liberty Mutual
- MCNA Dental
- The Doctors Company
- Southern Dental Refining