Free Dental Clinic Continues to Draw Crowds

Apr 28, 2014

The clinic provided around $1.5 million worth of dentistry in two days, estimated one of the volunteers.

More than 2,000 people waited outside the XL Center in Hartford this past weekend to get free dental work at the Connecticut Mission of Mercy dental clinic.

There were so many people that hundreds had to line up overnight.

John Franklin was one of them. He stood in line for his grandmother, starting at around 3:00 am, to get a 9:00 am appointment. "She actually fell," he said. "[She] took a little fall, and cracked her teeth, so she needs to get one tooth extracted. It's chipped, or something. Then she needs to get dentures to fill her top. I didn't like standing outside, but it's all worth it. I know how expensive this stuff is, and I'm glad to see people doing stuff like this."

The clinic provided around $1.5 million worth of dentistry in two days, estimated Thomas Getreuer, one of the more than 200 dentists volunteering. He's been coming to these clinics ever since the first one in Connecticut started seven years ago.

The clinic set up a lab to make dental prosthetics.
Credit Alan Yu / WNPR

"These are average people: the guy next door that's coming in here because they've lost their job," Getreuer said, "or they've lost their benefits, or they've lost a spouse. They're unable to work; some major tragedy has befallen them that hasn't allowed them to stay in the system, and they've not been able to get the care that they need. Patient after patient [has] an amazing story. I've got young people that just [got] out of prison."  

Organizers said the goal is for everyone to have such good dental care that they never have to host one of these clinics again, but the event kept growing. These free dental clinics are now held in 26 states, and New York state is hosting its first one this June.

The Affordable Care Act does not include dental care for adults.