Arkansas Mission of Mercy (ArMOM) will offer free dental services to thousands of people April 27-28 at the Conway Expo Center.
Dr. Terry Fiddler, a Conway dentist who has been with ArMOM since its creation 12 years ago, said patients aren’t asked for IDs, proof of financial information or immigration status.
“All I tell people is: ‘I don’t care if you’re a billionaire or a pauper, you get in line, wait your turn and we will treat you,’ and all I require of them to have is bad teeth,” he said. “We’re just here to help these people; that’s all we’re here for. It’s a labor of love.”
In its first 11 years, the program provided nearly 21,000 patients with $11 million of free dentistry, ArMOM officials said.
The mission is privately funded, in large part from Walmart and Delta Dental of Arkansas. The Arkansas State Dental Association founded the program in the state.
Through the donations, ArMOM is able to provide more than dental work to participants -- it gives food to attendees throughout the day and typically sends them home with care packages, Fiddler said. Also, if a patient needs diabetes or heart medications in order to receive care, physicians on site will provide those medications for free.
Fiddler said 160 dentists and 400-450 health care personnel from across the state will be on hand at the event. Additionally, he said the program “has a dire need for lay volunteers” to help set up, break down, escort patients, serve as interpreters and more.
“That’s why we need the community to be involved,” he said. “You don’t have to go out of the country to perform mission work.”
One local nonprofit has already signed up to help.
“We’ve got Renewal Ranch coming,” Fiddler said. “They’re going to help us set up and break down, and we’re going to be able to give them a nice donation for doing so.”
ArMOM will set up on April 26 and open the doors to patients at 6 a.m. April 27. Fiddler said that in previous years, there were more than a thousand people in line hours before the doors opened.
He said patients are seen are on a first come, first served basis.
“We fully expect to see about 1,300 patients a day,” he said, adding that although the clinic will close around 4:15 p.m. each day, nobody will go untreated. “In the 12 years I’ve done this, we’ve never turned down a single patient.”
The event is not exclusive to Arkansans. Fiddler said people from surrounding states attended past events, including one woman from Texas who shared her story on an ArMOM video about the services.
Through tears, she said she was “so grateful for her new face,” after having several missing teeth replaced with partials.
“It not only changes a person’s face, it changes their life,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler said the city will benefit from all of the doctors, patients and volunteers who travel to Conway for the event.
“We’re going to bring a quarter million dollars of financial impact to [the city],” he said. “We’ve got five hotels booked. It’s a great thing. This is something I want to bring to Conway as often as I can.”
To register as a volunteer, visit rsvpbook.com/ArMOM2018Conway. Fiddler said anyone can volunteer, and no particular skills are required.
“I fully believe that every person in this world was put on Earth to help another person,” he said.
For more information, visit arkansasmissionofmercy.org.