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Maryland's Mission of Mercy Dental Program

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There isn’t a more rewarding experience than witnessing first-hand the impact of Maryland’s Mission of Mercy Dental Program. For the first time since starting dental school, I was reminded of the qualities that initially drew me to the field of dentistry. Not only was I able to witness this, but my hands were helping bridge the gap for so many people without access to dental care. 

 

Mission of Mercy’s Dental Program is a fully mobile dental clinic. The clinic travels with portable dental treatment chairs, x-ray machines, autoclaves, instruments, electric generators, and hand tools. Several hundred volunteer dental professionals along with volunteer staff hold two day long dental clinics at different locations around the country. The first Mission of Mercy (MOM) Project launched in July of 2000. Since then, the program has expanded across the country. Maryland is home to four MOM events that are hosted in Western Maryland, Mid-Maryland, Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland. Two MOM events occur in Maryland each year. The hundreds of patients that are treated at MOM lack access to dental care, lack financial ability to afford dental care, or simply have no dental home. There is no cost to the patients; everything is free for them. MOM does not use any government funding; therefore, patients do not have to show any documentation proving their poverty. You might be thinking, who pays for everything at this fully mobile dental clinic? The dental organizations of the state where the event is held raise private donations to cover the entire cost of the event.

 

I volunteered at my first MOM Project this past fall in College Park, Maryland. When I first arrived, I saw several hundreds of patients lined up outside of the building. Many of them had pillows and blankets and had spent the entire night in line for the 7 AM opening. All services at MOM are provided on a first-come first-serve basis. Once the doors opened at 7 AM, they were closed just a few hours later as the facility quickly filled up with patients in need of dental care. Services provided at MOM vary from one event to another, but typically MOM offers cleanings, extractions, root canals, fillings, oral surgery, and oral hygiene education. The event was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I really felt a sense of love and community among everyone there. I assisted alongside dental professionals who cared for the patients like they were family, and it was rewarding to see the impact we made in people’s lives.

 

I am planning to volunteer at the upcoming MOM next month in Maryland, and I am really excited to help MOM continue to build relationships within the community for years to come. As dental students, an experience at MOM will remind you why you are enduring exam after exam, long nights of studying, and endless hours in the simulation lab.