NCMOM-Charlotte: A Thank You Message from Dr. Evan Miller

(From the Charlotte Observer)

In the teeth of this economy, $1 million in free dental care

From Drs. Kenneth Owen and Evan Miller, co-chairs of the North Carolina Missions of Mercy-Charlotte Ambassadors:

Thank you, Charlotte!

The numbers we’ve tallied show the amazing success of the free, ’round-the-clock dental clinic we held a few weeks back at the Charlotte Convention Center.

But first, we want to share stories from the volunteer event that treated more than 2,000 people who came in pain and in need.

We laughed with one patient who told us after treatment she felt “like I just won a prize on the Oprah show.”

We cried with another woman, whom we’d just given a partial denture, when she said through tears: “I never thought I would like myself again.”

The patient I (Dr. Miller) will remember most is the man who waved from the grandstands as he waited to have an aching wisdom tooth extracted. The man reminded me we had gone to school together as children. We visited a moment, then shook hands and hugged. Nothing speaks to the fragile nature of this economy and indeed, this life, as that moment did to me.

The event was put on by the North Carolina Missions of Mercy, a project of the N.C. Dental Society, which offers a dozen clinics around the state each year – thanks to donations from big-hearted folks across the state.

Charlotte’s was the biggest Mission of Mercy yet. The trucks rolled in a day before the clinic doors opened, and volunteers transformed the cavernous Hall B into a reception room, and Hall C into one of the world’s largest dental clinics.

In came 90 dental chairs, lab equipment, a state-of-the-art mobile x-ray van, a pharmacy, and all the accoutrements necessary to operate a dental clinic nonstop for the next 36 hours.

Patients began lining up a day in advance. To treat them, 901 dental professionals from Murphy to Manteo showed up, with a core contingent from the Charlotte area.

There were general practice dentists, oral surgeons, orthodontists, endodontists, periododontists, prosthodontis and pediatric dentists.

Supporting them were hygienists, dental assistants, lab technicians and dental students.

The result: $1,069,000 in dental services donated to 2,145 adult patients from around the region.

We examined and x-rayed, filled cavities, cleaned thousands of teeth – and yes, there were root canals. Beyond all that dentistry were people, businesses and organizations with no ties to dentistry. They gave us money and in-kind gifts – as well as their time.

Then, there were average citizens, 895 of them, who showed up to work some or all of the 72 hours we spent preparing, treating patients and dismantling the clinic.

There were retirees and students. Natives and transplants. Investment bankers. War veterans. Doctors, nurses and paramedics came, too. As did the clergy. And Mecklenburg’s district attorney.

Even the patients gave back. Some went from the dental chair to the floor to work as volunteers. One patient passed out snacks he’d brought for himself.

So thanks again, Charlotte. Particularly at this tough economic time, you showed what we can achieve when we all pull together in the spirit of giving.

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