Final numbers are still being tallied, but close to 2,000 people received free dental care Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Coliseum, near Wichita.
Close to 500 dental professionals and at least that many other volunteers took care of the crowds that began gathering Thursday morning in the Kansas Coliseum parking lot. Suzanne Wikle, who heads the Kansas Dental Project, says the Mission of Mercy is great, but it will never be enough.
“Charity care is great, but I think the need that we see in this state just cannot be overcome by charity care alone,” says Wikle.
Wikle says the way to meet the need is to expand the dental workforce with mid-level professionals called Registered Dental Practitioners.
Greg Hill heads the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation, which organizes the annual Mission of Mercy. He says workforce issues can’t explain the number of people seeking care in the Wichita area.
“Within probably 30 minutes of travel from where we were, there were probably 300 dentists,” says Wikle. “A lot of adults who come in need extractions, and those kinds of dental work that really require an oral surgeon to do.”
Hill says those patients need more advanced care than a registered dental practitioner could provide. The next Kansas Mission of Mercy will begin the last day of February next year, in Dodge City.