Hundreds of people received free dental care in Pensacola last Friday and Saturday at the Florida Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy event in Pensacola. "It was absolutely crazy!" said Pensacola dentist Beau Biggs trying to describe the scene as a hundred dentists and chairs filled the gym floor at Woodham Middle School.
People started lining up as early as Wednesday evening to make sure they had a spot in one of those chairs. "We saw over 1,800 patients and did over $1.4 million worth of dental services. So it was pretty incredible."
Dr. Biggs says that unlike other Mission of Mercy events, no one had to be turned away this time. Everyone who showed up by the time the doors were closed was able to get care. "We did about 800 fillings, we did about 2000 extractions, we did about 50 partial dentures, 'flippers', so we did a wide range of things and really enjoyed ourselves doing it and made a lot of people smile."
And about 250 of those people were veteran from the area. They were allowed to show up a day early and get their care started first. Overall the majority of people at the event were local. "We did have some interesting cases. There was a homeless student from Central Florida, UCF, and he came all the way up here from Orlando. I remember another lady came over from Jacksonville and got here the night before, ready to camp out for care."
The care people receive keeps many from having to use the emergency room for dental work, and that has a big economic impact on local hospitals. "Preliminary numbers say that the decrease in the number of emergency room visits for non-trumatic dental emergencies is in the thousands. And you figure that each emergency room visit costs $300-$500 to $1000. [So] the amount of money saved by the local hospitals is in the millions."
This is the third year the Florida Dental Association has sponsored a Mission of Mercy dental clinic in the state. The first was held in Tampa in 2015, the second last year in Jacksonville. And plans are already underway for the forth. Next year’s event is being planned for the Fort Myers area.