Much of the work that’s being done for patients can easily cost them thousands, but at the clinic, it’s free.By Lindsay Ward

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s something so many need but cannot afford. With the pandemic impacting numerous families, from job loss to change in insurance, people are living without dental care. Without that care, serious health conditions are possible.

More than a thousand volunteers, including dentists and nurses, are helping families for two days at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for a free dental clinic. People KDKA talked to say this care is something they haven’t seen in years.

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There are many reasons why people choose not to go to the dentist, like the high dollar amount and the work they need done. However, dentists at the clinic say those volunteering care about those walking in.

“They’re here because they love the community, they love their patients and they love seeing people get better,” said Daniel Pituch, DMD, Chief of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at UPMC Mercy and Shadyside.

Non-profit, Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh is hosting the clinic. Adults and children as young as 2 can come and get dental exams and cleanings. Some dentists are also doing more serious work like root canals and extractions.

“Dentists are deciding where all of the problems are, developing a list of problems and then identifying the top three priorities that can potentially land someone in the hospital,” said Pituch.

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Organizers say there were about 200 people waiting in line to get in Friday morning, and in a few short hours, they had about 500 patients. They expected a large turnout after needing to cancel last year’s event because of the pandemic.

“There’s a tremendous need in our society, particularly in the metropolitan area for professional dental science and dental care. A lot of people can’t afford it, let’s just be plain about it,” said Benjamin Chiszar, who attended the event.

Much of the work that’s being done for patients can easily cost them thousands, but at the clinic, it’s free.

“The fact that we’re able to, the Mission of Mercy can provide free dental and vision care to people who don’t have insurance, is so welcoming and overwhelming,” said volunteer Deirdre Lofton.

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The doors to the clinic will open up Saturday at 6 a.m. There are no income or eligibility requirements.