PITTSBURG — The Kansas Mission of Mercy will host its free dental clinic, which plans to treat an estimated 1,600 patients, on Friday and Saturday.
The dental clinic will be at the Robert W. Plaster Center at Pittsburg State University, beginning at 5:30 a.m. on both days.
“We have a pretty big operation where we have two different diesel generators that we’re using for the electrical, because we have reverse osmosis systems for our water, we have the pumps and the vacuums, and so this is just a mobile clinic,” said Gina Pinamonti, an orthodontist in Pittsburg and local chair for KMOM.
More than 700 people have volunteered their time to help with the KMOM free clinic, including Pittsburg High School athletes who were helping to set up on Thursday. By Thursday, volunteers had set up more than 60 dentist chairs at the Plaster Center. On the two days of the clinic, about 45 dentists will be treating patients during each session, which will last for approximately one hour.
“When people line up, we want to treat everybody we can, but we only have a certain capacity, and so we will be counting the patients as they line up and be letting them know when we expect that we’ll be at capacity, and we’ll let the people in line know that,” Pinamonti said. “Sometimes we’ve had to turn people away and ask them to come the next day.”
Registration for the free clinic opens at 5:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. After registration, patients will go to medical triage.
“That’s where they’re going to check your blood sugar, check your blood pressure, check your health history, and if you require antibiotic pre-medication that’s when they would prescribe that,” Pinamonti said.
“We would then take you to dental triage and that’s where someone would look in the mouth and write down everything that they see that can be done or needs to be done. Then they’re going to ask the patient ‘What is your priority?’”
With the high demand for KMOM’s services and the clinic’s limited resources, patients will only be able to go to one department. The four departments at the clinic are operative, which handles drilling and filling, surgical — which handles pulling teeth — a department for teeth cleaning only, and a section solely for children’s dentistry. There are some levels of dental work which people may require that are beyond what the KMOM clinic can offer in a one-hour session.
Cindi Sherwood, a dentist from Independence, Kansas, along with volunteers from the company Patterson Dental, was helping Thursday to set up state-of-the-art X-ray equipment provided by Finland-based Planmeca.
“I always come on Thursday to help,” Sherwood said. “I’ve done like 22 of these things.”
This year’s event will be the 18th KMOM clinic in Kansas, but Sherwood has also assisted with free clinics in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, she said.
While there are limits to the services KMOM can provide during the one-hour dentistry sessions of its two-day event, Pinamonti said the organization receives a lot of positive feedback from patients.
“To help them get out of pain, or to help them be able to smile, that makes a huge difference, I mean you can just see the joy in their face,” Pinamonti said. “It’s pretty amazing.”