Roy Lehmann was among the Special Olympics athletes from Wisconsin to receive free dental care at a local Mission of Mercy event. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Dental Association.

Thirty-five year old, Roy Lehmann knew he had a serious dental problem. His gums were sore, but he couldn’t afford treatment so he pushed his pain aside. All that changed last month when one organization with a mission changed his smile forever.

Hundreds of dentists, hygienists, and medical professionals travelled across the state to help thousands of individuals like Roy at the Wisconsin Dental Association Foundation and WDA Mission of Mercy event on Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 25th in Weston near Wausau. Children and adults waited in line and logged more than 2,000 patient visits for free cleanings, fillings, extractions, partial dentures and even root canals.

“There were a lot of people who needed dental work. In Roy’s case, he has no money, no job, and no insurance,” said SOWI Agency Manager, Carol Krause, who brought Lehmann to the event.

“Without insurance, some dentists will not see you and it’s really hard trying to pay the bill if you don’t have any income for it,” agreed Lehmann.

Lehmann was one of 22 Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes who received free care due to urgent dental need. According to Lehman, after sitting for five hours in Dr. David Kenyon’s dental chair and having a half dozen teeth removed, he felt like a new man.

“It’s been a year since I’ve seen the dentist,” exclaimed Lehmann.

“Now that he has new front teeth, it makes a huge difference in his smile,” said Dr. Kenyon. “He was probably hiding those teeth and now he can feel a lot better about himself.”

The procedures weren’t just performed for aesthetic reasons, but for long-term preventative health as well.  According to medical professionals, poor oral health can translate into more serious issues down the road.

“If you have chronic infections of the teeth it can cause systemic problems,” said Dr. Kenyon. “The chief problems that are closely tied to poor oral health are cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.”

It took more than 1,000 volunteer dentists, dental hygienists, and assistants, Marquette University School of Dentistry students and community representatives to make the event a success. At the end of the weekend, the mission proved to be just as rewarding for the dentists as it was for their patients.

“That’s what this is all about,” added Dr. Kenyon. “Being able to help people who are in need and get them to the point where they can get out in society and feel good about themselves.”

“It’s a wonderful mission,” agreed Krause.

For more information about how you can participate in the 2012 Mission of Mercy event, visit www.wda.org.

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