According to a 1999 study published by the Joint Committee on Healthcare, Virginia has 43 underserved areas where the dentist to population ratio exceeds one dentist to 5,000 or more individuals. To respond to this critical situation, the Virginia Dental Health Foundation launched the Mission of Mercy (MOM) Project in 2000. Three times a year, approximately 150 dental professionals give up their weekends and travel to rural areas of the state to help patients with their dental problems.
For many in these rural areas, there is a lack of resources to address their dental health issues. Since it’s inception, the MOM Project has provided an increasing number o Virginians with cleanings, fillings, extractions, dentures and other dental services that they otherwise would not have access to. Through the endless hours of planning and involvement by these volunteers, the Mom Projects have broken records for the biggest dental outreach clinics ever conducted in the United States.
These dedicated professionals have devoted their time, energy, resources and whatever else is needed to ensure that the MOM Projects are hosted every year and the number of people served by them increase. Without their diligent planning, coordinating and ability to get all of the resources required, the MOM Projects have the potential to be chaotic scenes and ending up as just another good idea that was not realistic to implement.
Because of the untiring commitment and dedication of this group of dentists, specialists, dental assistants, hygienists and staff, these projects continue to be successful in providing much needed dental care to those served by them. The number of uninsured and underserved Virginians receiving dental care has increased with each year that the MOM Project is held. Thanks to the nine MOM Projects that have been hosted, in excess of 7,111 people have been provided with desperately needed dental treatment. Without these clinics, most of those served would have continued to leave their dental needs unmet. Overall, because of this team’s belief that everyone is entitled to dental care, $2,587,274 worth of dental care has been donated to those who need it most.
Without the different resources and backgrounds that each member brings to the table, this project would not be possible. Some members are responsible for visualizing the project and work towards getting others on board. Other members have the resources to get funding, supplies and donations. There are also members who participate in the planning of the projects and treat those very people they have envisioned the project helping. Without each member of this team, the MOM Projects would never be able to have the impact on these areas that it currently does. It is through their efforts that the dental community came forward to volunteer their time and services to improve the lives of those in greatest need. The MOM Program recognized a need, mobilized the appropriate resources, came together and still continues to make a difference.