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SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Andy Manar toured the Mission of Mercy dental clinic Friday in Springfield, where hundreds of adults and children with limited financial resources and other barriers to routine dental care were able to receive free treatment.

More than 1,000 volunteer dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, dental students and other volunteers from all over Illinois set up a two-day large-scale dental clinic at the Bank of Springfield Center in downtown Springfield. They provided free basic dental services, including cleanings, fillings, extractions and partial dentures to patients who began lining up outside the building overnight Thursday so they could be treated as soon as the doors opened at 6 a.m.

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Friday was the first day of the clinic, which will continue Saturday. As of noon Friday, dental professionals already had treated about 500 patients. During the course of the two-day clinic, they expect to treat 2,000 patients and offer about $1 million in free dental care. Patients are not required to pre-register or make appointments. Treatment is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

One-hundred portable dental chairs, equipment, lights and units were set up to treat patients. Separate areas with more privacy were set up for extractions and anesthesia. There also were separate areas for cleanings and lab work.
This is the fifth year for the event, which takes place at locations around the state every two years. It is organized by the Illinois State Dental Society Foundation.

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During a tour of hospitals and federal qualified health clinics in the 48th Senate District last fall, Senator Manar repeatedly heard from health care providers that access to dental care is a significant problem in rural parts of the state, where it can be difficult to find a dentist who accepts Medicaid and where those who do have lengthy waiting lists.

Illinois has some of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the nation.

For more information about the Mission of Mercy, visit its website and its Facebook page.

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