live: Demonstrators rally in OKC for fourth nightbreaking: Putnam City Schools announces 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame classThe Latest: Biden wins Pennsylvania, Rhode Island primaries

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Point of View: Expo removes obstacles to dental care

Dr. Chris Leslie
Dr. Chris Leslie

Dentists and volunteers from around the state come together annually for the Oklahoma Mission of Mercy (OkMOM), a free two-day dental clinic held in a different town each year. The 11th annual OkMOM is Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8, at the Payne County Expo Center in Stillwater.

You might wonder why a large-scale event — one that has treated more than 16,000 patients totaling more than $12 million in donated dental services since 2010 — changes its location each year? The answer is simple: Many Oklahoma communities face unique obstacles in receiving dental care. With the rising costs of dental care and lack of dental offices in rural areas, Oklahomans are struggling to prioritize their oral health.

According to a 2019 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Oklahoma only has enough dentists to meet 40% of the dental care health need. Moreover, most dental practices are located in the state’s urban areas. These issues contribute to existing geographic, financial and educational obstacles that hinder Oklahomans from accessing consistent and affordable dental care.

OkMOM’s mission is to provide free dental care to as many adults and children as time, volunteers and supplies will allow. There is no patient eligibility or income requirement. There are no questions asked or identification required. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

At OkMOM, it’s important we educate patients on proper oral health and do our best to connect each patient to a dentist in their area. A visit to OkMOM can be lifechanging for someone in dental pain, but ongoing preventative dental care for every patient is the goal.

Each OkMOM requires more than 1,500 volunteers, thousands of dollars in donations and countless hours of preparatory work to execute. Dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, dental technicians, physicians and hundreds of general volunteers will help with everything from patient and volunteer hospitality to language translation. Volunteers turn a facility within a community into a fully functional dental clinic, offering services such as cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals on front teeth, and limited ways to improve the smile that address the most pressing dental needs for patients.

The Oklahoma Mission of Mercy is produced by the Oklahoma Dental Association, Oklahoma Dental Foundation and the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation. These organizations understand the need for individuals to have proper oral health for their overall well-being. I encourage any Oklahoman seeking to donate their talents to join us in impacting our community in a way that could change their life forever.

Leslie, chairman of the 2020 Oklahoma Mission of Mercy, practices dentistry in Stillwater.

Comments