For those in need of cavity fillings or tooth extractions, your chance is coming soon.

A free dental care clinic will be held from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 28 and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 29 at the Leflore County Civic Center.

“Our number one goal is to treat as many patients as there are,” said Dr. Mark Donald, the project chair for the free clinic, who runs a practice in Louisville.

The clinic will be available to  adults who cannot afford dental care.

The clinic, known as Mission of Mercy, is a cooperative effort   of the Mississippi Dental Association and the Mississippi Dental Association Foundation. MDA helps recruit dentists, dental hygienists and other volunteers to run the clinic while the foundation pays for the equipment and supplies.

There will be 45 dental chairs, each with a dentist providing treatment.

“It’s a big project,” Donald said.

Donald participated in a Mission of Mercy clinic in Jackson in 2011  and one in Pearl in 2013. Those clinics were larger, with  120 dental chairs. Collectively, the clinics in the Jackson area served around 2,600 patients, almost $1.3 million worth of treatment.

 There was such a demand that patients lined up the night before, Donald said.

The largest building he could find to host a clinic in the Delta was the Civic Center, which can hold up to 45 dental chairs.

“Because of the limited number of chairs and what the real need is to alleviate the pain, all of the chairs are dedicated to fillings and extractions,” Donald said.

“When you have 120 chairs, you can afford to set a few chairs to hygiene. But when you have only 45 chairs, you need to focus on more pressing needs.”

Dental hygienists also will be on site to explain to patients after treatment the importance and proper procedures for oral hygiene.

Each day there will be 50 dentists on hand, coming from different parts of the state — from the Gulf Coast to the Delta. In addition, non-dental volunteers will be on site to assist with the logistics of the clinic.

Dr. Todd Fincher of Greenwood will be among those volunteering.

“This is a good opportunity to give to some of those who have not been able to afford dental care,” said Fincher, who will be working all day on June 29.

Fincher has participated in various dental mission trips abroad in places such as Cameroon and the Dominican Republic. He’s also participated in various non-dental mission trips in the Delta.

“It’s wonderful. It’s the greatest experience in the world,” he said.

This will be his first time providing similar service in the Delta. He learned about plans for the Delta clinic from a friend, Dr. Brad Jenkins, a dentist based in Indianola who is the Mission of Mercy clinical coordinator.

Fincher said serious health problems can occur if a cavity is not filled or a decayed tooth is not extracted. For example, he said, a neurologist told him that a tooth abscess — an infection — is the primary cause for an abscess in the brain.

Abscesses are formed when bacteria enters the tooth, such as through a cavity, which is a hole in the tooth. The bacteria can then travel to the bone as well as the blood supply in the bone, possibly blowing out the bone, Fincher said.

He also said the clinic is geared towards adults, since children may be covered through Medicaid. Donald said that in many cases, parents forgo their own dental treatment for their children.

On Thursday, Donald will arrive in Greenwood to help transform the Civic Center into a temporary dental clinic.

He, along with Fincher, is excited to get to work.

“It’s going to be a great day for Greenwood and the county,” Fincher said.  

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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