Iowa Mission of Mercy brings free dental care to Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Mission of Mercy brings free dental care to Waterloo

Posted: Updated:
WATERLOO (KWWL) - Hundreds of Iowans are getting free dental care in Waterloo this weekend, as the Iowa Mission of Mercy program continues Saturday.

The program is now in its seventh year.

Whether it's for a teeth cleaning or a root canal, thousands of Iowans aren't able to get to a dentist because they don't have insurance coverage or it's too expensive.

That's why about 1,200 people are expected to pass through the doors of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center over two days to get that critical care.

Josh Oelrich says he hasn't been to the dentist for 10 years. The Fayette man waited six hours to get several cavities filled.

"You can't pass up free dental care when you haven't been in so long," said Oelrich. "So far, despite the wait, it's worth it. It's been a good experience."

Dentists and hygienists from all over Iowa and some surrounding states set up shop in Waterloo to give back through the Iowa Mission of Mercy.

They volunteer their services, so everything is free.

The Affordable Care Act doesn't include dental insurance, though the expansion of Medicaid does.

Still, organizers say there's a big need for their services.

"There are about 130,000 who were newly-provided dental insurance," said Dick Hettinger, Iowa Mission of Mercy chair. "That still doesn't take care of everybody because even with that, there may be co-pays and things like that, that they still aren't able to access complete dental care."

Charletta Sudduth's husband had tooth pain. She says they're grateful for the program.

"I was so touched by all the care and the wonderful service," said Sudduth. "In a day where a Good Samaritan is hard to find, this has been a true blessing to the Waterloo area."

The Iowa Mission of Mercy started in Waterloo in 2008. This weekend, they expect to see 1,200 people come through the doors for dental work.

But organizers say this is just a quick fix -- both for the patients and Iowa's access to care.

"We hope these people can continue receiving their dental care after we're finished here," said Hettinger. "What we need is a concentrated effort by policymakers to fix the problem of inability to access dental care. We can't do it through volunteer organizations. Charity is not a healthcare system."
Powered by Frankly