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Thousands Pack Free Dental Clinic

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Jul 2011 03:12pm | comments
Dentist work on patients.

Mississippi has just 4 dentists for every 10-thousand residents, among the lowest in the nation and a major health concern for the state.  MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that a free dental clinic in Jackson drew thousands of Mississippians in need of dental care.

The crowd of people looking for dental care quickly overwhelmed the clinic capacity and caused waiting lines outside the Jackson Convention Center.

Over one-hundred dentists were gathered by a group called Mississippi Mission of Mercy, to offer free dental services to anyone who asked.

MOM organizer and dentist Ed Holliday of Tupelo says the clinic is vital because many Mississippians struggle to pay for dental care or get access to a dentist.

"They have waited and neglected dental problems and then it gets into, sometimes, a life and death situation. That's why we want emphasize that people need to take care of their teeth and take care of their mouth. It can relate into heart problems and other things if they don't get their dental infections taken care of," Holliday said.

Holiday says over the two day clinic they served thousands of people and did over 1-million dollars in free dental work.

Two hygienist lean over Latoya Pritcard, injecting her with numbing drugs in preparation for some fillings.

Pritchard, a single mother of two, says she hadn't been to the dentist to fill the cavities because the process was too expensive and not covered by her insurance.

"I really think it has a lot to do with the economy and how much money you make. Like myself, I am a single mom and I have to kids...so, I have to decide what is what," Pritchard said.

Tooth decay is a major concern for Mississippi kids, The state department of health estimates that 40-percent of third graders have some untreated tooth decay.

Pediatric dentist Nathan Beavers of Madison says waiting until a child has a dental problem can create a life long aversion to dentists.

"If they have to come in and have never seen a dentist and the first thing we have to do is extract a tooth or inject a shot, that is where get a create a life long child that is scared of the dentist," Beavers said.

Beaver says establishing healthy dental routines early for children, and encouraging parents to actively seek out dental care, can help decrease tooth decay and the greater health care problems it causes.

 



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