Missouri Mission of Mercy, or MOMOM, hopes to provide free dental care for up to 2,000 Missourians this weekend at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
This is the fourth year dentists, hygienists and other volunteers from across the state have come together to provide cleanings, fillings and extractions free of charge.
Dr. Lori Henderson, local chair of this year’s MOMOM, says lack of funding for adult Medicaid, underemployment and low minimum wages are all reasons why individuals and families struggle to access dental care.
“They may be making a decision of new shoes for their child or paying their co-pay so there are a variety of different hardships that people fall on, and that’s why you see this many people here," Henderson said.
Dr. Kyle Lisenby is a dentist from Columbia who is helping to provide treatment. He says that dental issues are important to address even though they aren't always prioritized.
"In the state of Missouri, there's quite a dental crisis with the amount of treatment that patients need and dental pain can be pretty aggressive and can affect people's lives quite a bit. So this is just one of the solutions that can target that need, that crisis," Lisenby said.
By noon Friday, a line of people stretched across the east side of the Hearnes Center. Laura Fields from Eldon, Missouri, had been waiting for almost two hours. She said she heard about the MOMOM clinic from her doctor.
“I have a mouth full of infection and adult Medicaid will not pay for me to get my teeth done unless it’s an emergency," Fields said.
MOMOM will see patients until 5 p.m. Friday, then reopen for a second day of services at 5 a.m. Saturday morning.