Catholic Charities and UMCP join forces to provide free dental care today

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, the Maryland State Dental Association, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna and DentaQuest and The University of Maryland at College Park will transform the XFINITY Center into a mobile dental clinic today and tomorrow to provide one million dollars of free dental care to more than 1,000 people.

The dental clinic is part of the two-day Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival, sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Public Health's Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) (a Click here for more. NIH-NIMHD Center of Excellence on Race, Ethnicity and Disparities Research) and will help adults who are uninsured to get dental treatment.

In 2007 a 12 year-old boy from Prince George's County died from an untreated dental infection. His life could have been saved if free dental treatment had been available to him. Since the death of Deamonte Driver the state of Maryland has seen improvements in its oral health programs and policies. However, there remains a great need for dental services, especially for adults. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that for 2012 almost 20 percent of Maryland residents surveyed had not visited a dentist within the past five years and seven percent had not visited a dentist in more than five years.

Today and tomorrow, approximately 800 volunteers, including licensed dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants, will provide state of the art dental services, including cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals and oral hygiene education for free to help to avoid situations where serious dental problems could possibly lead to death because treatment was not available.

Professor Stephen B. Thomas, from the School of Public Health Department of Health Services Administration and Founding Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, a NIH Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, said the Maryland Center for Health Equity's goal for this event is not only to serve people in need of emergency dental care but also to connect people in great need to quality healthcare. Ultimately, the aim is to empower people to take control of their own health The event also helps to achieve the Federal Healthy People 2020's oral health objectives to increase awareness of the importance of oral health to overall health and well-being, and reduce disparities in access to effective preventive and dental treatment services.

This is the first time that Catholic Charities is convening a Mission of Mercy (MOM) project on a university campus with an academic research partner, and adding a health promotion component that addresses the broader physical and social determinants of health. "I'm so excited to see so many individuals from our community receive the gift of free dental care. All of this could not take place without the support of so many, especially our local dentists and dental hygienists. This will be a remarkable experience for the givers and receivers. Catholic Charities is thrilled to be a part of the Mission of Mercy & Health Equity Festival, Monsignor John Enzler of Catholic Charities said.