Thousands to get free dental care at Phoenix event

- Jose Hernandez has suffered from a major toothache for the past year. He finally underwent a root canal this morning and was waiting for a new crown.

"I didn't have no money to fix it, you know, social security, you don't have much money to live on," he said.

Hernandez is one of 2,000 people who will receive up to $2 million in free dental care this weekend, thanks to the Mission of Mercy or M.O.M.

"In 2010, we lost our adult dental benefit out of access and ever since that time people have been going to emergency rooms and just getting pain medications and getting antibiotics, and the Mission of Mercy Center rose out of that lack of services to this population," Kevin Earle said.

Kevin Earle, executive director of The Arizona Dental Association, says the majority of patients live below the poverty level. He says most don't have dental insurance and can't afford to see a dentist.

"Hopefully, they'll fix one of my teeth and fill one of my cavities," one person said.

Cavities, cleanings, root canals, extractions, even X-rays are provided at the event.

"Patients come through the process and they tell us they have an area they are concerned about, but often they don't know the extent of it or exactly where the discomfort is coming from, so X-rays help us really determine where the need is actually at," Dentist Jennifer Enos said.

The care is comprehensive, with 100 portable units and 1,700 volunteers. Patients are served on a first come, first serve basis, and each and every one of them like Hernandez is grateful.

"I just thank God for all of these people that are doing this job for us," he said. "For all of these people here taking their time out and helping us."

In the six years since the event started, a total of 10,000 people have received $10 million in dental care.

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