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Patients travel miles for free dental clinic



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HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE came to the free dental clinic last Thursday and Friday at Badger High School. The Mission of Mercy operation helped hundreds of people in need of dental care. Volunteer dentists donated their services to perform everything from cleanings to replacing dentures. Joy Kowald/REGIONAL NEWS.

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July 01, 2013 | 01:31 PM
Ruthy Bently of Watseka, Minn. didn’t mind sharing her story.

Not all of those waiting for the opening of the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic at Badger High School wanted to talk, and not all wanted to give their full names.

But Bently, who is middle-aged, said she’d been sitting in her lawn chair since 6:30 a.m., and she was willing to stay overnight.

It was just 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The volunteers were just two hours into setting up the free clinic and already nine people were waiting by the northwest entrance, where, 21 and a half hours later, at 5:30 a.m. Friday, about 2,000 patients were expected to make their way to dental treatment on a first-come, first-served basis.

The clinic operated Friday and Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“I’ve not been to see a real dentist since I was 16 because I’m scared to death of them,” said Bently. However, she said she went to the free clinic in Minnesota two weeks ago and met some of the dentists and hygienists and found them to be compassionate people who want to help others.

Because of the people she met there, she said, her fears melted away.

She had 16 teeth pulled and was prescreened for dentures at the next Mission of Mercy, here in Lake Geneva,

She said she had to learn that dentists are people, too.

She turned to Carol Weber, public relations, and said “I want to say I’m thankful.”

Colleen B. of Chicago was looking for a root canal. She can’t afford the asking price of $2,000 for a root canal at a dentist’s office.

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DR. CHRIS KAMMER and dental assistant Kelli Wallace of Madison work on a patient Friday Joy Kowald/Regional News. (click for larger version)
Colleen said she is attending College of Lake County for an associate’s degree in art. Her goal is to study law at DePaul University.

Marcia Knull of Elkhorn wanted to get her dentures repaired or replaced. They are causing her intense pain.

She is on Medicare and Social Security. A widow, she has no other income. She came early Thursday, thinking that numbers would be issued to patients on that day. But patients didn’t receive numbers until Friday.

Knull said she was worried that if she left to go home she would lose her place, but those around her promised to hold her place in line.

“I’m a widow,” she said. “I’ve never been to something like this.”

Kris S. of Shorewood, Ill., said she was there for two fillings, although she was there more as moral support for her boyfried, Paul, who also needed fillings.

Kris said she works in retail, and doesn’t have comprehensive dental insurance through work. Her dental insurance will pay for only cleanings and X-rays. When it comes to fillings, she’s on her own.

Kris said she has two children who are covered through a State of Illinois dental care program for children. But she would have to pay $50 for her two fillings.

The $100 could be better used for food and clothing for her kids, she said.

A.K. of Darien was not waiting outside.

He was one of the volunteers inside the Badger gym, helping to set up.

He has a beard, long, thinning hair and tattoos covering his arms. He looks like a biker, and he is one.

A.K. said he’s the chaplain of the Christian Motorcycle Association.

“I’m always willing to do anything to help the public,” A.K. said, who started unpacking chairs and setting up tables at the clinic starting 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

A.K. said he’s hoping to get into the free clinic as well.

“I had my teeth pulled years ago and I didn’t know I’d have trouble with dentures,” he said.

However, because of some complications, dentures didn’t work. He recently priced some dental implants for $5,500.

“I don’t have $5,500,” A.K. said.

A.K., who still has some teeth, said he sometimes speaks at local churches, but he’s somewhat self-conscious about the teeth that are missing. It’s also very difficult for him to chew.

He said he hopes that the dentists will be able to help him at the free clinic.

“It would be nice to have a smile like everyone else,” A.K. said.

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