Free dental clinic to open for those in need of care

Friday, July 21, 2017 - Updated: 2:00 pm

Adults and children who need, but cannot afford, dental care are invited to a free, two-day dental clinic Friday, July 28, and Saturday, July 29, at the A.J. Palumbo Center at Duquesne University.

Hosted by Face2FaceHealing, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit co-founded by Karen Scuilli and Dr. Daniel Pituch, Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh will deploy hundreds of volunteer dental clinicians, nurses, pharmacists and helpers who will donate their time to assist the underserved and provide dental diagnoses, basic restorative fillings, extractions and cleanings at no charge to anyone older than age 2. Oral cancer screenings also will be provided.

No preregistration is needed, and there are no income or eligibility requirements. Registration is first come, first serve starting at 6 a.m.

“Many of those who will be served are from working families who do not have access to dental care or cannot afford dental insurance,” Pituch said. “Mission of Mercy dental clinic can be life-changing for patients, especially the homeless, the working poor, women in shelters, and children whose families do not have the means to see a dentist. By providing care, we help underserved patients move on to a better chapter in their lives.”

The idea of establishing a Pittsburgh dental care event was born out of conversations between Pituch, Dr. Richard Celko, UPMC Health Plan dental director, and Michael Zamagias, chairman and CEO, TeleTracking Technologies Inc., who together saw the need to provide service on an annual basis.

“The connection between dental health and overall health is significant,” Pituch said. “Poor dental health can tax the immune system, and can lead to cardiovascular disease because of the inflammation and infections oral bacteria can cause. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, and poor dental health causes pain, discomfort and embarrassment for the individual affected. Despite this, statistics tell us that 47 percent of people in need of dental care have never seen a dentist.”

Poor dental care in children is particularly prevalent. While the Children’s Health Insurance Program guarantees dental coverage for millions of low-income children, not all providers will accept CHIP or Medicaid. One in five children have untreated dental cavities, making tooth decay the No. 1 health issue among U.S. youths.

“Lack of care often drives individuals to emergency rooms when pain becomes unbearable,” Celko said. “Because ERs are not equipped to provide traditional dental care, they can often only issue medication and referrals. The cost of a dental ER visit is three times as much as a routine dental visit, and the patient leaves with no change to the condition that drove them to seek emergency care.”

The first Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh event will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Palumbo Center, 1304 Forbes Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. For information about receiving services and shuttles for patients, go to www.mompgh.org or call Kayleigh Fontana at 412-391-6369.

A team of 300 volunteers is needed in the areas of dental, medical and general assistance. To learn more and to register as a volunteer, go to www.mompgh.org. The deadline for volunteer registration is July 24.

Follow Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MOMPGH/ and Twitter at @MOM_PGH.

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