After two days of patients coming through the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, nearly 2,000 were able to walk out with a brighter smile.
They were able to have a teeth cleaning, pulling or filling all for free.
The Arkansas Mission of Mercy has been traveling the state providing dental care free of charge for the last eight years.
Over 850 volunteers including 150 dentists came out to Springdale Friday (May 16) and Saturday (May 17) to donate their time and expertise to help anyone and everyone who walked through the door.
Dr. Mark Bailey has been practicing dentistry in Waldron for the last thirty years. He said working two marathon days providing care for those who need it most is his favorite part of his job.
“This has been one of the most, if not the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my practice.”
Dr. Bailey said he saw people from every walk of life sit in his chair this past two days.
“We dedicate our time and our abilities to come and serve those that aren’t necessarily in our neighborhoods,” Bailey said, “But they need it, and we take all-comers, it doesn’t matter if you’re Sam Walton or a street person… we’ll work on you and we are glad to do that.”
Patients Tony Newton and Tom Meredith said they both appreciate the quality of work they saw the volunteers doing at the clinic Saturday.
“Every one of them needs to be appreciated for what they’re doing,” Meredith said, “I didn’t understand how big of deal this was until I got here, and it is great.”
Meredith served in the military for two decades. He said he hasn’t had dental insurance in over thirty years.
Newton also doesn’t have dental insurance, but he said even more than the free service, he appreciated how warm and welcoming the volunteers were to everyone that came.
“You never know what people are going through and what their reasons are for needing free services are,” Newton said, “And you don’t make those assumptions with how they look or how they dress, so that’s one thing I really appreciated about how the people, the workers and the volunteers have responded to each person, no matter what.”
Organizers said that they estimate over $1,000,000 worth of care was provided to the patients.
The dentists and hygienists do receive more than just the satisfaction of volunteering their time. For every half day they worked at the clinic, they get two credit hours that count towards their continuing education credit.
Organizers said next year’s Arkansas Mission for Mercy will be in Little Rock.
For more information on the first day of the free dental clinic in Springdale, click here.