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Free dental clinic brings smiles to Reading

Jonathan Escarraman had been uncomfortable around cameras for the past five years, careful to keep his lips tightly pressed against his teeth when someone wanted to capture a special moment in a photograph.

The Reading resident said he was embarrassed and worried that the chip in one of his front teeth would ruin the image. But that insecurity was erased on Saturday.

Standing in a crowded and bustling Santander Arena that had been transformed into a giant dental clinic, Escarraman posed for the camera with a bright smile stretched across his face.

“I feel like I can finally smile now,” he said.

Jonathan Escarraman of Reading smiles after a broken front tooth was repaired during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Jonathan Escarraman of Reading smiles after a broken front tooth was repaired during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Escarraman was one of nearly 800 people who received free dental work Saturday thanks to the MOM-n-PA Dental Mission. The free clinic also provided services for about 850 people to those in need on Friday, with people lining up for the opportunity as early as Thursday evening.

MOM-n-PA, which stands for Mission of Mercy of Pennsylvania, is a nonprofit group of 950 volunteers and dental professionals. Each year, the group holds a dental clinic so people who cannot afford dental care can receive free treatment.

This year’s effort filled the Santander Arena with 130 dental chairs to treat patients. The services offered at the clinic included medical screenings, exams with X-rays, cleanings, extractions, fillings, root canals and partial and full dentures all without accepting any fees from patients.

Since 2013, clinics have been held in various cities throughout the state where the organization recognizes a need. They have held events in Philadelphia, Allentown, Harrisburg, Erie and Pittsburgh to name just a few locations.

This year marked a return to Reading, where the 2018 mission was held.

Gary Davis, chairman of MOM-n-PA, said the organization is committed to helping people who may not otherwise get the services they need. He said seeing the impact they can make is why so many volunteers are willing to lend a hand.

“We are making a big difference in the lives of the people we treat,” he said. “We see people who are missing teeth, have a cracked tooth or are in a great deal of pain because of some issue. When we fix those problems, the smile on their faces is so great to see.”

Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Davis said that beyond providing free dental work, MOM-n-PA also seeks to connect patients to a local dental office where they can receive services in the future.

“We want to help change lives,” he said. “This is what the mission is all about.”

The clinic certainly proved to be a transformative experience for Michelle Conti. The Philadelphia woman said she has been embarrassed by the state of her smile for quite some time, but that she had difficulty securing dental insurance that would cover the expensive procedures that she required.

Michelle Conti of Philadelphia emerges with a smile during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Michelle Conti of Philadelphia emerges with a smile during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

So when Conti heard about the free clinic she didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

“I wanted to get as much done as possible so this is actually my second day here,” she said with a quick smile on Saturday. “This is absolutely one of the best things that I could have done because I finally feel like I can stop hiding my face.”

Conti said that over the two days she spent at the clinic she was able to get 10 fillings, four teeth extracted and be outfitted with a partial denture.

“Everyone was so nice and helpful,” she said. “If I wasn’t so exhausted I would probably be crying tears of joy right now. This is going to make such a difference in my life.”

Samuel Selcher said seeing the impact the clinic had on people like Conti is the reason he keeps coming back to volunteer his services. The Middletown dentist said he feels good knowing that he is making a difference.

“It is very fulfilling work,” he said. “The science has shown tremendous implications between overall body health and dental health. Studies have found the presence of gum disease seems to be an indicator of other issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and arthritis.”

Selcher said that , unfortunately, dental insurance can be difficult for some to secure. He believes his work at the clinic is a way to give back to those in need.

Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Patients are treated during the MOM-N-PA dental clinic on Saturday at the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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