A Mission of Mercy

from left: Eva Dupay, Dr. Isabel Garcia, Marissa SpruellEach year, the Florida Dental Association Foundation hosts its annual Florida Mission of Mercy event, known as FLA-MOM, to service low and no-income residents in the state of Florida.

The free first-come, first-served dental clinic rotates locations throughout the state of Florida annually with the goal of treating 2,000 patients through the two-day clinic. This year hundreds of volunteers, including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, nurses, doctors, lab technicians, students and translators all embarked upon Pensacola, Florida, for the 2017 event at Woodham Middle School on March 24-25.

As the state’s premier philanthropic and charitable organization for dentistry, the FDA Foundation serves as a catalyst for uniting people and organizations to make a difference through better oral health. Similarly, the UF College of Dentistry shares the vision for access to care, community outreach, and prides itself on providing the highest degree of patient care and service.

Without hesitation, and as they always do, a number of College of Dentistry faculty and students made the five-hour trek to the panhandle to serve patients in the region. A total of 36 UFCD dental students and five faculty members, including Dean A. Isabel Garcia, D.D.S., M.P.H., came together with the Pensacola community to deliver free care to those in need.

“This year we delivered both emergency and restorative dental care,” Micaela Gibbs, D.D.S., director of community based programs in the UF Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science said. “It was a great event.”

The FLA-MOM event, which featured 100 chairs in Pensacola, saw 1,905 patients and provided more than $1.4 million in donated dental care through event weekend.

Care started bright and early each day, with preparation at 4:30 a.m., and the start of service at 5 a.m. Three hundred veterans were pre-screened in advance, and were the first to receive care on the first day of the clinic, while hundreds camped out overnight to be the first to gain access to dental care they desperately needed.

The UFCD is one of the largest providers of low-cost dental care to Florida’s indigent residents. More than 70 percent of the college’s patients meet federal low-income guidelines and dental care at the student clinic costs 30-50 percent less than private practice.

The college hosts and participates in a number community outreach programs and serves underserved communities throughout Florida through the UF Statewide Network for Community Oral Health, and through its community-based programs in Hialeah, Naples and St. Petersburg, effectively providing care to patients from every county in the state.