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  • Tara Crutchfield

Florida Mission of Mercy FREE DENTAL CARE!

For the first time since 2014, the Florida Mission of Mercy (FLA-MOM) will take place in Polk County. The free, two-day dental clinic hosted by the FDA Foundation is slated for May 31 – June 1, 2024, at the RP Funding Center (701 West Lime St., Lakeland).

The FDA Foundation, which started in 1980, is the philanthropic arm of the Florida Dental Association. Over the years, they’ve given back to the community in various ways, from dental scholarships to support for clinics and programs across the state and coordinating volunteer efforts. The FDA Foundation has three primary programs: Donated Dental Services, a partnership with the national organization Dental Lifeline Network in which dentists can volunteer in their office; Project Dentists Care, a statewide safety net listing of clinics and programs which the FDA Foundation provides funding to some annually; and Florida Mission of Mercy, a signature program they coordinate every year.

Florida Mission of Mercy (FLA-MOM) is a large-scale professional dental clinic that provides care to any patient at no cost to them, with the goal of serving the under-served and uninsured in Florida – those who would otherwise go without care.

Lakeland’s will be the organization’s ninth clinic, with previous FLA-MOM events in Tampa, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, Ft. Meyers, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach. The impact they’ve had over eight years can’t be overstated. Since 2014, FLA-MOM has provided $14.67 million in dental care, treated over 13,000 patients, completed over 90,000 procedures, and had over 12,000 volunteers.

The May 31 – June 1 RP Funding Center clinic will have 300 dentists on site with an additional 500-600 hygienists and assistants. Beyond that, the clinic boasts pre-dental students, dental hygiene students, and around 2,000 community volunteers. They hope to serve 2,000 patients over the twoday event. “There is a huge unmet need in the state of Florida and across the country for routine access to dental care,” said R. Jai Gillum, director of foundation affairs for the FDA Foundation.

The Mission of Mercy patients will receive patient education, medical screenings, a panoramic X-ray, and a dental exam. From there, treatment varies from fillings, cleanings, extractions, limited root canals, pediatric treatment, and prosthodontics (partials, bridges, and dentures). “We have patients who leave our clinic with mouths full of gauze, and they are overwhelmingly grateful for this service – in awe at what we are able to do and have done,” said Gillum. “What’s really important to us is the dignity of our clinic and making sure our patients feel dignity while they’re getting care.”

“We get calls every single day in our office from patients across the state that just need help. They’re trying to find a program or place they can go,” said Gillum.

“I didn’t have the money to go to the dentist, so I was suffering. […] These are tears of joy. I am so thankful for everything you guys have done for me,” said one grateful FLA-MOM patient.

FLA-MOM is coming to Lakeland thanks in part to Representative Sam Killebrew and Senator Colleen Burton, who championed legislation last year that provides funding to the program. This is only the second time FLA-MOM has received state funding, and it remains one of the only states to receive state funding. “This is not a solution. We want to help, especially with acute needs within an area. More than anything, it brings attention to what is needed,” Gillum said. The event is more than free dental treatment; it catalyzes change in statewide funding for dental programs. FLA-MOM provides data on the patients they treat to local and state officials. According to Gillum, the need is far greater than the 2,000 people they’ll be able to help in Lakeland.

Gillum called the clinic “life-changing” for volunteers and patients alike. Of the providers, she said, “This gives them a chance to provide care to people, some of whom haven’t had treatment in years.” One dentist volunteering at the West Palm Beach FLA-MOM event last year noted, “It’s more rewarding for me than for all the people I’m helping.”


The 2024 Florida Mission of Mercy Veterans Dental Event will be held on May 30 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. You must register for an appointment. See their website listed at the end of the story. Veterans will register for an appointment time on Thursday, May 30, to complete paperwork, X-rays, and a dental exam. They will return at 7 am on Friday, May 31, to complete dental treatment.

The 2024 Florida Mission of Mercy will take place from May 31 to June 1, 2024, at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Doors open at 7 am. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. The goal is to treat 2,000 patients in two days.

Information about treatment:

• Adults must be willing to wait in line and not have medically compromising conditions to be treated.

• Photo identification, social security number, insurance information, or other personal identification/documentation is not required.

• Children under the age of 18 can be treated, but a parent or guardian must accompany them.

• Interpreters will be available to assist in some languages, but please bring an interpreter if you do not speak English.

Florida Mission of Mercy

FB: Florida Dental Association

IG @fda_dental

Photography provided


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