Free dental clinic offered in Hedgesville

Any adult without insurance can choose from one of three services

Any adult without insurance can choose from one of three services


MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A two-day, free dental clinic for adults will be held next month at Hedgesville High School as part of an ongoing initiative to improve the oral health of Eastern Panhandle residents.

"The goal is to see at least 1,000 people in two days. The other goal is to get people out of pain," Lisa Dunn, dental health programs director for West Virginia University Health Sciences Center Eastern Division, said in a news release.

"Dentists are coming from all over West Virginia. This is a huge, huge undertaking. It has taken a year to plan."

Anyone 18 or older, including non-West Virginia residents, who do not have insurance or cannot afford to see a dentist, are eligible to receive one of three services -- tooth extraction, restoration (such as cavity fillings) or cleaning -- at the school on June 27 and 28, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, officials said.


Sponsored by the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the clinic has been dubbed a Mission of Mercy (MOM) project, an all-volunteer service program that was launched in 2000 by a dentist in Virginia. The event in Hedgesville is the first to be held in West Virginia, according to organizers.

Healthy Smiles, a local oral health task force, is coordinating the project with direction from Dunn, Betty Russell, dentist Tom Leslie and his wife, Toni. Betty Russell is the wife of local oral surgeon W. Dean Russell.

"This is just one component of what we're trying to accomplish," Russell said of the MOM project's relationship to the multi-pronged efforts of the task force, which organized two years ago.

Since joining WVU's Eastern Division in January 2007, Dunn has been leading educational outreach efforts with young children in the Eastern Panhandle. A 2003 survey by the West Virginia Bureau of Health indicated more than 10,000 Medicaid-eligible children in the Eastern Panhandle were not receiving adequate dental care.

Though the free clinic is being offered only to adults, Russell said the task force has not forgotten about children.

The establishment of a clinic specifically for children in need of dental care is the goal of Healthy Smiles of the Eastern Panhandle Inc., a nonprofit organization incorporated with the assistance of attorney Kenneth J. Barton Jr. in February 2008. W. Dean Russell, Shepherdstown-area dentist Anne Basham and others are listed as directors of the organization.

"We're learning it's not as easy to get to the children as we thought it would be," Russell said. "We have to get to the parents first."

For the adult clinic in June, people will be treated on first-come, first-served basis. After taking part in a MOM clinic in Roanoke, Va., last year, Dunn said the unfortunate part of the project was that more people came than could be served, leaving many turned away at the door.

"People start lining up in the middle of the night," Dunn said. "One of the things we hope to achieve with this clinic is to demonstrate the enormousness of the need."

Patients next month will go through registration, medical screening, an initial exam and an X-ray if necessary, then will receive treatment in various areas of the high school, officials said.

Russell expects dental professionals from Virginia and as far as Pennsylvania and North Carolina to be among about 600 volunteers who will have some role in making the clinic operational.

"We couldn't do it without the help from Virginia," Russell said.

The more than 100 professional volunteers include six dentists from the WVU School of Dentistry, 31 third-year dental students, three hygienists and seven assistants, according to Teresa E. McCabe, vice president of marketing & development for WVU Hospitals-East.

Nearly 500 other volunteers are being recruited by the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle Inc. to help run the event.

Gov. Joe Manchin's wife, Gayle, is scheduled to volunteer, Dunn said.

"The Eastern Panhandle is the fastest-growing area. We haven't been able to keep up with the same rate of dentists, leaving the tri-county area with an extremely low rate of dentists per capita," Dunn said.

For more information

More information about volunteering and receiving patient services at the Mission of Mercy (MOM) clinic at Hedgesville High School is available online at

Medical questions about the MOM project should be directed to dental professionals Tom Leslie ( or 304-258-2291) or Lisa Dunn ( or 304-264-9202).

Nonmedical questions about the initiative should be directed to Trina Bartlett ( or 304-596-5529).

More information about the WVU School of Dentistry is available at

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