By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Natalie Somley of Monroe had a cracked tooth and no dental insurance.
The 48-year old stay-at-home mom was faced with options that included enduring the pain, or trying to find several thousand dollars to pay for the needed dental work.
Then she read about the Connecticut Mission of Mercy dental clinic. Somley drove 55 miles to Hartford on Friday to join hundreds of others inside the XL Center who otherwise would not have access to dental care.
“It weighs on you,” she said, while waiting to have a crown put on her damaged tooth “You have to decide what to do. And when it comes to your mouth, you can’t just let it go. You’ve got to get it taken care of. Things like these are so beneficial.”
Somley was one of more than 2,200 people who were expected to be treated at the two-day clinic. Patients began lining up Thursday morning in anticipation of Friday’s 6 a.m. opening. The clinic admits the first 1,200 people in line each day.
It will run through Saturday evening.
It’s the seventh annual clinic put on by the Mission of Mercy, but the first to be held in the capital city. Last year’s event in Bridgeport provided $1.3 million in dental work to 2,125 people from 140 different communities.
Organizers expect a similar turnout this year. About 1,600 volunteers, including more than 250 dentists are volunteering their time.
“It does work to bring out the issue to the policy makers and show them there is a need here,” said Dr. Bruce Tandy, a Vernon dentist who helped organize the event. “In the Affordable Care Act, there is really no provision for adult dental care. We’re one of the few states that do have some provisions for adults on Medicaid, but the reimbursement rate is so low that there are not a lot of providers that are able to do that and run their offices.”
This year the clinic set up a special section for pregnant patients, including a separate line that would allow them to be seen sooner.
Tandy said the clinic provides not only a physical benefit, but a mental one, as well. Patients, he said, literally are able to smile again after leaving.
Syerra Manley, 20, of Southington is a student at Tunxis Community College. She is no longer on her parent’s dental plan and cannot get dental care through her school, she said. She said she needed some dental surgery to avoid losing some teeth.
“Without this, I would be in a lot of severe pain,” she said. “It’s funny how if I wasn’t a student and was a mother or something, I would have all the services I need.”
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