Uninsured Rhode Islanders receive free dental care

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island's first Mission of Mercy free dental clinic is being hailed as a huge success. Held over the weekend at the Flanagan campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, it served more than 600 uninsured and underinsured people. But hundreds more had to be turned away.

Madeleine Daye of Pawtucket stood in a line of 200 people yesterday hoping to get a sore tooth treated at the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic. But the day's quota - 325 - had already been admitted.

"I have a cavity and I need it extracted," she said. "I had a tooth ache for three days straight!"

Inside, volunteer dentists were trying to figure out how many more patients they could squeeze into a 12 hour day.

Dr. Deb Fuller, vice president of the group that sponsored the clinic - the Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation - says people camped out overnight to get in.

"Oh we've got hundreds of people in line, Fuller said. "There were patients lining up in the rain from 10 pm last night and they slept out overnight in line waiting for the clinic to open this morning."

Fuller says Rhode Island is the 25th state to offer Mission of Mercy dental care and she's hoping to make it an annual event.

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