A massive volunteer effort will provide free dental work to hundreds of needy Iowans in Waterloo this weekend. Dr. Dick Hettinger, who is a dentist in Sioux City, helped organize the two-day event called the Iowa Mission of Mercy. He says there are no eligibility requirements for the clinic, though he expects it will attract mainly the working poor.
Hettinger says similar clinics in neighboring states have been successful in helping people that have jobs, but are not eligible for state aid and can’t afford needed dental work. The clinic will offer dental treatment at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. The hours are 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in downtown Waterloo.
Just under 900 volunteers will be on hand to help an estimated 1,000 people. The volunteers include roughly 200 dentists and 150 dental hygienists. Hettinger his organization received nearly $200,000 in donations to cover the costs of the neccesary equipment. There are 85 dental chairs and work stations set up in the convention center.
"We’ll be doing restoritive care on children and removal of infected teeth on children and adults," Hettinger said. "We’ll be able to make some simple tooth replacements for a number of people." Potential patients were already stopping by the convention center this afternoon saying they plan to be there early tomorrow.
Organizers choose Waterloo as the host city after evaluating information from the Iowa Department of Public Health. "Then with the developments in the weather, the tornado and the flooding, it looks like we had a crystal ball to choose Waterloo," Hettinger said. This is the first year for the Iowa Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic , but plans are already being made for another clinic next year. Hettinger says that event will take place somewhere in central Iowa.