Clinic was exemplary community service

Published 8:11 am Sunday, July 19, 2009

By Staff
The dental clinic N.C. Missions of Mercy put on this weekend is one of the most valuable community service events all year.
For no other event do people line up so many hours early, in such great numbers and from so far away to receive such badly needed care.
A toothache is a painful difficulty for those of us who can afford dental care. For those of us who cannot, it can be an unending stream of agony.
The clinic, hosted at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, helped end many people’s agony and prevent pain for many more.
Good dental care helps with nutrition and appearance. It’s undoubtedly easier to land a job with a full smile.
The clinic offers services ranging from cleanings to extractions. Our reporter at the event Friday noticed there were a large number of people who had to have several teeth extracted.
Anyone who thinks there isn’t a need for good, free dental care in the community should visit the clinic next summer and see for themselves. There’s a need, it’s immense and it’s right here.
The volunteers meeting that need this weekend came from across the state. There were medical professionals from across the state and local volunteers from across the community. Let us repeat that: The event was hosted at St. Peter’s, but the volunteers weren’t just from that church. They included anyone who would show up to help.
There are several things we can do to help cut down and eliminate the pain this clinic was designed to combat:
1. Promote better dental care in the community. This takes a variety of forms. The creation of a dental school at East Carolina University will undoubtedly increase the number of dentists active in our community. Metropolitan Community Health is working to open a dental clinic, but that process has faced difficulties because of political fights about funding and because the county cut off funds in the last budget year when times got tight. Getting that straightened out would be a big plus.
2. Help the Missions of Mercy clinic next year. Provide it supplies. Pitch in. This especially means dental professionals. The reason the clinic saw more people this year than last year was simple: more dental professionals showed up.
3. Help Missions of Mercy and programs like it run more clinics. This problem isn’t just in our community, and, indeed, some patients traveled from rather far away to be treated here. That’s because there weren’t clinics available closer, presumably. So, if there are more clinics elsewhere, there will be less need here.
4. Help reduce poverty. This part is the most obvious, and the toughest to do. If these folks had good jobs and dental insurance, they could afford their own dental care. The entire nation is trying to figure out a way to fix our health-insurance system. Even if the national system currently being proposed isn’t the answer, it’s clear the system we have now is tragically broken. And the entire nation is trying to fix our economy, though it seems likely that the local economy may take even longer than the nation’s to improve. Still, every bit of job creation and less-expensive employee insurance are steps toward better dental care for the poor.