Thousands receive free dental care at Mission of Mercy

Mission of Mercy is largest free dental clinic in U.S.

Hundreds of volunteers at the Mission of Mercy event at the are offering thousands of patients free dental care Friday, regardless of age or income level.

Patients stood in line through the night waiting for doors to open at the Alliant Energy Center for the clinic at 5:30 a.m.

“I got here about 1 a.m. and then the first round I went through pretty fast, and was done with my first two fillings by 8:40 a.m.,” said Jolean Bateman of Lake Delton.

Many patients said they simply couldn’t get the care anywhere else.

“I’m losing like $200 today in pay but I’m probably saving like $2,000 in dental work,” said Frank Herndon of Janesville.

The program, sponsored by the Wisconsin Dental Association, has brought together volunteers across the state for the largest free dental clinic to ever be staged in the United States. 

Patients only need to pass a basic medical exam and then are offered whatever services they need, from cleanings to fillings to extractions.

Christina Miller traveled from Sturtevant, Wis., for the clinic, needing approximately $6,300 in dental work she couldn’t otherwise afford.

“Everyone I have seen I have said thank you so much (to),” Miller said. “It means the world to me and (what) these doctors give of their time. I am so grateful.”

“People have been very thankful,” said Dr. Gene Shoemaker, co-chair of the Mission of Mercy. “We walked the line this morning and to a fault, people said, ‘Thank you, God bless you, thanks for being here.'”

Organizers said the clinic had 1,830 patient visit Friday and estimate they’ll give out $1.75 million in free dental services through the weekend.

Dentists said they’re doing a much larger number of extractions at this clinic, many of them from “meth mouth,” or teeth that fall out from drug use.

They said they have typically done more tooth fillings than tooth pulling at other clinics they’ve staged across the state.

Doors for the clinic will open again at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, taking patients on a first-come, first-served basis.