Event Provides $2 Million In Free Dental Care To 2,000 Arizonans
Two thousand people will receive about $2 million in free dental care by Saturday afternoon. For the eighth year in a row, the Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation (CADSF) is hosting its Dental Mission of Mercy event. It’s a resource for those who can’t afford to go to the dentist or don’t have insurance.
About 1,700 unpaid dentists, hygienists, lab techs and other volunteers provide free dental care on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
They offer fillings, extractions, cleanings and even dentures on a first-come, first-served basis. Carmen Bermea spent the night outside the coliseum on Thursday, and it wasn’t her first time taking advantage of the free services.
“I got a root canal underneath my bridge and then they gave me two fillings last year,” Bermea said.
Getting that work done at a regular dental office would’ve cost her more than $5,000.
“It’s a brick lifted off my shoulder,” Bermea said. “Plus I got glasses last year and they said I could get some glasses this year, too.”
Lori Cruz knew she needed a crown, but the price tag was out of her budget. She said the event was just the fix she needed.
“It’s just awesome,” Cruz said. “They’ll be saving me about $1,400.”
Mesa Dentist Gary Jones is one of the event organizers. He said patients started camping out on Monday for services that opened on Friday morning.
“These patients that come in with no teeth and leave with a big smile — it’s amazing,” Jones said. “We also are doing root canals and crowns and giving people that have broken down front teeth new teeth that they can smile with.”
But all that free dental work comes at a cost. Jones said it costs CADSF about $140,000 to have a company bring in dental equipment and get all the necessary supplies.
“We’ve got a grant writer that goes to all the charities in the area and kind of shows them what we’re doing and asks them to contribute,” Jones said. “We’ve got an eight-year track record now of doing a lot of dentistry and a lot of charitable work for a lot of people.”
Jones said the primary goal is to get people out of pain and infection. He said some are so grateful, they decide to pay if forward.
“A lot of them have said ‘you guys have helped me so much I want to volunteer next year,’” Jones said. “So those that come through the system come and sign up to volunteer as patient escorts for the next year. So it’s really awesome.”