The Illinois Mission of Mercy is a large-scale dental clinic that provides free oral health care to patients of all ages who cannot otherwise afford or access care.
The goal is to provide $1 million in free dental care to 2,000 patients over two days, concentrating on exams, cleanings, fillings and extractions.
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More than 1,000 volunteers – dentists, hygienists, assistants, nurses, lab techs, pharmacists and dental and hygiene students – will be on hand to make the mission possible.
There are no income eligibility requirements, and anyone can receive treatment.
Missions of Mercy events across the country have helped more than 275,000 patients and have provided nearly $190 million in free dental services since 2000
The events also bring attention to the fact that many Illinois residents do not have access or cannot afford dental care. Mission of Mercy spokesman Dave Marsh said state lawmakers are being called upon to provide better funding to Illinois’ Medicaid program.
Legislators throughout northern Illinois as well as Gov. JB Pritzker and Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey have been invited to tour the event.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Marsh said. “We reach out to both parties and anybody who might be able to help us in our cause.”
Here’s what you need to know about the event:
What are the Missions of Mercy hours of operation?The clinic doors open at 6 a.m. each day. The doors will close when clinic capacity has been met. The clinic will typically treat 1,000 patients per day depending on the number of licensed volunteers available. Clinic capacity may be reached as early as 10 a.m., so you are urged to come early.
Who will be providing treatment at the Illinois Missions of Mercy event?All care will be provided by volunteer licensed dentists and hygienists.
What dental services will be provided?Dental services include cleanings, fillings and extractions. Crowns, bridges, and dentures will not be provided. No services are guaranteed until you’ve been examined by a dentist at the clinic.Do I need to make a dental appointment?There will be no appointments made for the general clinic. Patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity for the day is reached. Capacity is determined by the number of professional dental volunteers present and cannot be predicted in advance of the event.
If I volunteer at a Missions of Mercy event, can I get treatment as a patient?Volunteering at a Missions of Mercy event does not guarantee treatment or preferential advantage as a patient. If you need dental treatment, make that your first priority and come as a patient.
What should I expect if I attend the Illinois Mission of Mercy?Arrive as soon as you can and be prepared for a full day. Here is the likely process you will go through:
- Waiting in line both outdoors and indoors.
- Signing a COVID-19 waiver and wearing a mask at all times, until asked to remove it for treatment.
- Filling out basic patient registration forms. (Volunteers will be available to assist with the forms.)
- Participating in a basic medical screening to determine if you are healthy enough to receive treatment.
- Participating in a basic dental screening to determine which procedure can be done.
- Waiting in designated areas for your procedure for the day.
- Receiving treatment from a dental professional.
- Checking out and receiving follow-up instructions.
What is the length of time I should expect for my experience at the event?You should expect to spend the majority of your day at the event or about six to eight hours or longer. All will have access to restrooms.
What should I bring?
- List of current medications.
- One day supply of your regular medications.
- It is a long day and it is best to leave children at home with somebody.
- Snacks and water.
- Patience and a good attitude.
If you are accompanying a young child or children, bring:
- Diapers and wipes. Supplies will not be available.
- Bottles and formula (if needed)
- Portable snacks and small meals
Can I smoke or vape anywhere at the event?UW Health Sports Factory is a smoke-free facility indoors and outdoors. Smoking anywhere on the UW Health Sports Factory premises is prohibited unless you are inside your personal vehicle.
Can I have treatment if I’m pregnant?Pregnant women are asked to bring a written note from their OB/GYN noting concerns or recommendations regarding dental treatment. If your OB/GYN has concerns, you may wish to seek regular dental care at a clinic other than the Illinois Missions of Mercy event.
What should I do if my doctor recommends premedication for dental treatment?Appropriate non-narcotic pain medications and antibiotics will be dispensed as directed by the clinicians. There will be no narcotics on the premises.Do I need insurance?No. This is a completely free event.
Is there anything that would disqualify me from receiving treatment?Each patient will undergo a simple medical screening at the start of their Illinois Missions of Mercy experience. Some things that could prevent you from being treated include:
- Symptoms of COVID-19
- Fever at the time of treatment.
- Uncontrolled or abnormally high blood pressure.
- Abnormally high or uncontrolled blood sugar levels (if you are diabetic).
- A history of excessive bleeding or too thin of blood. Those on blood-thinner medications should talk to their doctor before seeking dental treatment. Patients on Coumadin/Warfarin should bring a current INR card. Patients on Xarelto or Eliquis should consider stopping their medication 2 doses prior to treatment but not before talking to their doctor first.
- Currently taking medications to suppress your immune system.
- Other significant health issues (i.e. recent heart surgery/attack, undergoing cancer treatment, etc.)
Can someone come with me while I am being treated?A friend or family member can accompany you while outside the clinic but will be required to stay in the family/friends waiting area once you enter the building. You will be able to rejoin them after you are finished.
There are multiple people in my family who need dental treatment. Can they all receive treatment?Multiple adult family members can receive treatment, but there are some things to consider:
- Once inside the clinic, do not plan on being able to stay together through the entire process.
- If you are a parent seeking treatment, please leave your children at home with somebody.
- No childcare is available.
- The pediatric clinic for ages 5-18 is separate from the adult clinic. At least one parent/guardian will be required to always be with children younger than 18.
- Adults accompanying children who are receiving treatment should not plan on getting treatment themselves.
Is there a limit as to how much treatment I can receive?The first priority will be to treat your most critical dental need. One of the volunteer dentists will meet with you and determine how you can best be helped. The purpose of this type of clinic is to eliminate pain/infection by treating your most urgent dental need and to help as many individuals as possible.
Will there be translators?Due to the volunteer nature of the clinic, it is hard to know how many translators and/or signers for the hearing impaired will be available at Missions of Mercy. A family member can accompany a patient to help translate.
Are pets allowed at the Missions of Mercy event?No. Animals or pets, with the exception of Americans with Disabilities Act service animals, are not permitted in the venue. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
I’m not from Illinois. Can I still receive treatment at Missions of Mercy event?Yes. As many individuals as time and supplies allow will be helped. All services are a first-come, first-served basis.
I am in quite a bit of pain. Should I wait to be treated at the Missions of Mercy event?No. If you are experiencing abnormal to severe pain, seek immediate treatment. If you do not have access to a dentist, go to the nearest dental emergency room; if that’s unavailable, go to the nearest hospital emergency room. You can find a list of clinics for low-income and underserved individuals at https://www.isds.org/for-the-public/find-a-dental-clinic.