Hays Free Dental Clinic is looking for volunteers and accepting registrations for children
By Cristina Janney
The Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation’s free dental clinic — the Kansas Mission of Mercy — is accepting volunteer applications and registering children for treatment for its March 25-26 event in Hays.
Patients do not have to show proof of income, residency or insurance or have dental records.
Doors will open for patient registration at 5:30 a.m. each day at the Ellis County Fairgrounds.
The event hopes to serve up to 500 people over the two days of the event. The Mercy Mission typically draws people from across the region, and organizers expect patients from as far away as Colorado and Nebraska.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask in the building regardless of COVID vaccination status.
Adult services will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. However, pre-registration is accepted for children. Local school nurses have this information.
Parents and guardians can also access the link directly on https://kmomkids.as.me/schedule.php
Children ages 1-13 have the special privilege of scheduling a “time of arrival” at the clinic with a pediatric specialist. This “arrival time” does not guarantee that they will be seen at that exact time, but it will limit their wait time for treatment. Appointments are limited.
A parent or legal guardian must bring the child and be present with the child at all times. If you are a parent or guardian and need dental care for yourself, please plan to come at a different time, other than your child’s assigned arrival time, according to the website of the event.
How to volunteer
The event will need about 500 volunteers. Although dentists, hygienists and other health professionals will volunteer their time at the event, the event also needs a large number of lay volunteers.
These positions include escorts for dental patients, people to help with registration, serving meals, and setting up and taking down, among other duties.
Some people will volunteer with groups, which can be noted on the online registration form. Individuals can also register online and will be assigned where needed.
If you have already registered to volunteer for the February event, you will need to register again for the March dates. To register, go to Kansas Charitable Dental Foundation website.
Between 25 and 35 dentists will be volunteers during the event.
Hays dentist, Jarrod Jones, has volunteered for the free dental clinic in the past and will again be providing dental services at the Hays clinic.
Jones said it’s a big help for people who don’t have dental insurance.
“A lot of them are getting health care that they can’t afford or haven’t been able to get. It helps put things back in order,” he said.
It’s not just dentistry. Other health care providers will be on hand to help screen patients. These screenings sometimes identify other health problems that patients are unaware of.
KMOM offers dental procedures such as fillings, cleanings, root canals and extractions.
Jones said he saw advanced dental issues in patients at free clinics.
“You look in their mouth, and it’s a gateway to their overall health,” he said. “There are unfortunate stories behind how they get to the event.”
Jones said being part of the dental clinic is a great way to give back to the community and the state.
Benefit for the community
Hays convention sales manager Janet Kuhn said the event will have a significant financial impact on Hays.
The dental foundation raised approximately $160,000 to organize this year’s event in Hays, including $50,000 donated by the Robert E. and Patricia Schmidt Foundation. Much of that $160,000 will be spent at Hays on items like food, t-shirts and a variety of other services.
The rent for fairground buildings also remains in the county.
The dental clinic will attract dental professionals and other volunteers from across the region, many of whom will be staying at Hays hotels.
Hays has been courting the Mission of Mercy for nearly two decades, but the organization insisted Hays didn’t have a venue big enough to hold the event.
The clinic was scaled back this year due to COVID, which allowed Hays to be in contention for the event. This is the first time Mission of Mercy has been held in northwest Kansas.
Highlights for Patients
- Patients should continue to take any prescription medication as directed, so bring it with you so that a dose is not missed if the patient has to wait much of the day.
- The patient will need to complete a brief health history, so bring a list of allergies, prescriptions, etc. to have this information available.
- Patients do not need to bring dental records or proof of income.
- Services are first come, first served and all adult patients must be able to queue – no appointments.
- Doors will open for patient registration at 5:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday (March 25 and 26) and queuing or figuring out what time to get in line is up to the patient.
- Parking is limited, so there may not be preferential parking for patients with disabilities.
- The event only lets in as many patients as it can handle that day and officials will close the doors then. Queuing on Friday and not getting in doesn’t prioritize the patient the next day. It’s the same process on Saturdays – first come, first served.
- Be prepared to wait and potentially be there all day. Although a patient may arrive early in the morning, it may be mid-afternoon before the patient is treated.
- Breakfast and bagged lunch will be provided free of charge to patients. Diabetic patients or anyone else requiring an alternative diet should bring food with them.
- After an X-ray and a medical examination, the patient will be examined by a dentist and the patient’s greatest need will be treated. For example, if a patient needs extractions and fillings, the greatest need (probably extractions) will be addressed. The patient has the option of coming back on Saturday to get the fillings, but again has to wait in line like everyone else. No line priority is given.
- No sedatives or nitrous oxide are used during this event. The patient will be numbed in the area of the current procedure using an injectable numbing agent.
- No dentures or implants will be provided.
- Full oral extractions (excluding wisdom teeth) will be performed if deemed necessary by the examining dentist. The patient may discuss treatment/procedure options with the dentist prior to treatment.
- The event usually has as many volunteers as needed registered before the event. Therefore, volunteering will not prioritize or access treatment. Registered volunteers who wish to be treated must manage their schedules so that they can queue for treatment.
- Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all times.
- After treatment, patients will be given a phone number to call for follow-up emergency care if they have any issues with the treatment received.
- Even though safe and effective coronavirus vaccines have been widely distributed, Kansas Mission of Mercy organizers are asking that if you are sick or feel like you are getting sick, please stay home.