Las Cruces Sun News Opinion Page, March 13, 2012
Our View: A Mission that Brings a Bright Smile
The Las Cruces Convention Center was converted into a massive free dental clinic for two days earlier this month, and it truly something to smile about.
With equal parts compassion, efficiency and professional competence, the Mission of Mercy event, organized by the New Mexico Dental Foundation, brought free dental care services to the community. They treated some 1,600 patients during the two days, performing everything from routine cleanings to root canals and oral surgery.
More than 130 dentists from throughout the state came to Las Cruces for the event, along with an equal number of dental hygienists. Local dental students were able to lend a hand and gain professional experience at the same time.
The first Mission of Mercy was held 2010 in Albuquerque. Next year’s event is scheduled for Farmington. Each time, dentists from throughout the state travel to the host site to help out.
“There’s really a sense of camaraderie, and it’s a good opportunity for dentists from throughout the state to come together,” said Dr. Julius Manz of Farmington. “It’s been so gratifying to come down to southern New Mexico to help out. I’d love to see dentists from Las Cruces again in 18 months for the next Mission of Mercy.”
The stereotype, handed down throughout the years, has it that a trip to the dentist is something to be dreaded. With the Mission of Mercy, just the opposite was true. Many of those receiving free treatment were seeing a dentist for the first time in years.
And instead of dread, there was gratitude. “You’ve probably never seen people so excited to have dental work performed,” said Michael Moxey, communications director for the New Mexico Dental Foundation. “One woman wrote that she hadn’t been to a dentist in 20 years and was so grateful for this opportunity. People have said they’ll never forget what these dentists have done for them and I’ve even seen people hug the dentists when they’re done.”
The professionalism and coordination exhibited in treating patients ranging in age from small children to senior citizens was truly impressive. But what was most impressive was the level of care patients were able to receive with so many being treated at the same time.
Mission of Mercy is by far the largest and most visible charitable event by the Dental Foundation and its members, but it is far from the only one. Many local dentists give back to the community in smaller ways throughout the year.
We join with the 1,600 patients in offering our thanks.