SPREADING SMILES: Mass Clinic Needs Volunteers

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One group will bring smiles to Iowa next month by providing free dental services for people who can’t afford care. This is the first time the Iowa Mission of Mercy will host a two day dental clinic in Des Moines. Organizers still need more help.

Feeling pain in her mouth was just part of life for Barb Holst. She says, "Dental costs so much, kids come first. You put yourself second and that's the way it should be.”

But, six years ago she heard about a free two day dental clinic in Iowa, and she has gone each year since. She says, "It's been good. I started with a terrible mouth. I was crying. I would stay awake each night."

Each year the Iowa Mission of Mercy hosts the massive clinic in different parts of the state. This year, people can line up for free dental care on October 18th and 19th at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Dr. Zachary Kouri says, "We'll be providing things like extractions, filings, replacing some teeth with partials, simple root canals, cleanings and general health care like that."

Organizers expect to provide $1.4 million worth of services to 1,400 patients in two days. Dr. Kouri says, "We're going to have about 200 dentists per day. Also, along with that we're going to have auxiliary staff, hygienists are going to volunteer their time and assistants are really needed to also volunteer their time to help us do what we do."

You don't have to be in the dental field to help. They're really looking for people with two areas of expertise to sign up and volunteer. Kathy Salisbury with the Iowa Dental Foundation says, "It takes about 1,200 volunteers to put this event on."

Volunteers are needed to set up, tear down, feed workers and patients, and provide childcare. Organizers are especially looking for a few more nurses and many language interpreters. Salisbury says, "The city of Des Moines has a diverse population. And, we need to be sure people from other countries who English is not their normal language, that they're able to communicate with their dentist."

Holst is looking forward to seeing the dentist. She says, "It's almost closure because I feel like this year I'll be done and then I can do routine."

The clinic starts at 5:30 a.m. on October 18th and 19th. It's first come first serve, so organizers say to line up early and be prepared to be there for several hours.

Click here for a link to Iowa Mission of Mercy and to sign up to volunteer.