On Friday, March 29, OneWorld dentists and dental assistants will join a team of fellow dental professionals to provide free care at a community event for people who are uninsured, underinsured or having other difficulties accessing dental care. The community event, hosted by Nebraska Mission of Mercy, will span two days and will be held at Brownell Talbot School.

From 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both March 29 and March 30, dental professionals will come together to provide care for as many community members as possible on a first-come, first-served basis. According to Dr. Brian Penly, OneWorld’s dental director, the event will likely help more than 2,000 individuals access needed dental services.

“It’s an outlet to give people a chance to take care of some pressing, acute needs,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to get people connected with other dental homes, too … I think it’s important for us to be there, not so much for advertising, but for people to have a follow-up avenue, especially so people who are uninsured can know about community health center programs.”

Dental care, Dr. Penly said, is “generally inaccessible to more than half the population”—even to some people who have private insurance—because of the cost. Dental care can be more expensive than family/internal medicine because of overhead costs, supplies and the equipment needed to provide care.

“Community events aren’t the first wish for any of the people going,” Dr. Penly said. “They’re there because they can’t find people to take care of them. In the more rural areas, there might not be access even if you have Medicaid. Some people travel two or three hours to find a Medicaid dentist … It’s a sad situation, and I think it’s something people don’t generally understand until they’re in a situation where they really need dental care badly.”

When working at events offering free dental care (like Mission of Mercy or Give Kids a Smile) Dr. Penly routinely spends most of his time helping people with tooth extractions and fillings, since most people who attend are seeking acute pain relief.

“Usually, when I work these events, three quarters of my day will be taking teeth out, and the other quarter will be fixing teeth that have smaller cavities, and then sometimes bigger cavities,” he said. “It’s not easy by any means. It’s actually a really difficult day … Someone sits down in your chair, and they’re like, ‘I was told you were going to do this,’ and you’ve never seen the patient before.”

Though working on serious dental issues with new patients all day can be challenging, according to Dr. Penly, the dental professionals who work at events like Nebraska Mission of Mercy’s work as a collaborative team to make sure that each patient receives the best possible care.

“The beautiful thing is that there are so many dentists there,” he said. “If you’re outside of your comfort zone with something, you can go grab somebody to help you. For example, I’m a general dentist, and I take a lot of teeth out, but somebody might sit down in my chair that … can’t open very wide, is super scared, has super high pain, has other problems … but working right next to me is going to be an oral surgeon. There’s a lot of teamwork that goes into it.”

OneWorld’s dental professionals will be onsite at Brownell Talbot to provide care on Friday, March 29. For more information about Nebraska Mission of Mercy’s March event, please click here. For more information about Nebraska Mission of Mercy, please visit www.nebraskamissionofmercy.com.

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