A thousand people who can’t afford dental care will get free treatment next month during what’s called the Iowa Mission of Mercy. Dr. Dick Hettinger, a Sioux City dentist, is helping organize the event in Waterloo. He says they still need volunteer dentists, assistants, hygienists and members of the general public from across Iowa to lend a hand at the huge two-day event.

Hettinger says they’ll need volunteers to lead patients through the facility so they don’t get lost, volunteers for clean-up of the facility, and others with health care experience who can help with tasks like sterilizing instruments. Bilingual volunteers are also needed.

Hettinger is chairman of the Iowa Mission of Mercy and is past-president of the Iowa Dental Association. He says the hundreds of people who will be getting the free dental care will range in age from kids to senior citizens, and most of them will be from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area.

Hettinger says others will travel great distances. He took part in a similar event in Nebraska recently that drew patients from as far away as Michigan. He says people who’ve lost their front teeth face particular challenges during job interviews or whenever they have to interact with others.

Hettinger says, "If we can make them some quick replacements for those teeth, maybe not the finest things that could be made, but in a short time it can change them from being embarrassed to being able to smile again and that’s a great service that we like to provide." The saying is true, if you ignore your teeth, they’ll go away, but Hettinger says good oral hygiene is about more than just trying to prevent cavities.

"We’ve found some very significant connections between general health and the health of your mouth, direct connections with low birth weight babies of women that have significant gum disease, there’s an increased risk of heart disease in people who have gum disease," he says. The event is planned for October 3rd and 4th at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo. For more information, see the Iowa Mission of Mercy website at: "www.iowamom.org" or call 877-513-8966 and extension 5019.