Bulletin of Dental Education

Iowa Central Dental Hygiene Students Reflect on Successful Iowa Mission of Mercy Event

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The Iowa Mission of Mercy (IMOM) event is a large-scale, two-day community dental clinic where dental professionals and volunteers donate their time to provide free oral health care to individuals who face barriers to receiving dental care. Students from the Iowa Central Community College Dental Hygiene Program attended the event to provide support and gain experience. 

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A full-service field dental clinic with 100 dental operatories is set up and patients are treated on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the first IMOM in 2008, over 16,600 patients from all areas of the state and beyond have received free dental care totaling over $11.5 million.

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Almost 40% of 2022 IMOM patients indicated that it had been at least one to five years since their last dental visit. For 23% of patients, it had been more than five years since their last dental visit. Of the 2022 IMOM patients, 63% lived within 30 minutes of the local IMOM event, and 15% of patients traveled over two hours to receive the free dental care. Lack of insurance and inability to afford dental services were at the top two reported barriers to dental care among 2022 IMOM patients.

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The 2022 IMOM event served over 1,000 patients with about 6,800 procedures and treatments totaling more than $1,018,700 at no cost to the patients.

The following are some Iowa Central Dental Hygiene student reflections from the event.

“Attending IMOM is probably one of the most amazing outreach experiences I have ever been a part of. It was incredible to serve all these people who were in need of oral care. To see such a need and for the dental community to come and try to fill it was moving. We got to use digital sensors with a bisecting method and the handheld Nomad. Getting to use this technology for the first time was a great experience and taking so many radiographs in such a short amount of time really helped enhance my skills. After a lunch break, I was given the opportunity to have my own patient. I was really scared and nervous but decided I should at least try it. It was so hard, but I did my best and completed a gross debride. The day went by so fast, and I wish I could do it more than just once a year. I will definitely be returning next year. What a great opportunity to reach the community!”

          - Kelly Boleyn, second-year student

“Today, I really was not expecting the experience that I got. Even though I got up early, it was the best eight hours of my life since this semester has started. I got to meet the best people; people who did not come from much but still gave the most gratitude. For me, I think it was good for all of us to understand that even though we get care (almost every day), there are still many people out there who wish they could have more, which makes all of us even more grateful for what we have, and what we have accomplished in our lives to be in this program today! I would like to give a big thanks for signing us up to volunteer for this event, for the faculty to give each of us an opportunity to be selected into a program to help others.”

          - Kelsey Hobbie, first-year student

“I knew IMOM would be an exciting experience. I did not know how much it would change my view of dentistry. As I near the end of the dental hygiene program, I have learned so much more than that. Dentistry is a community of selfless, caring and passionate individuals who are willing to find ways to better the health of others no matter what it takes. The IMOM event proved exactly that. It was amazing to see the number of volunteers there to help. The number of people waiting for treatment was eye opening for me as well. There are so many individuals and families who wait all year for this event." 

          - Madison Struck, second-year student 

“IMOM was a wonderful opportunity to take a break from regular clinic time. I was able to view several periapical abscesses, retained roots and several non-vital teeth. Probably my favorite part of IMOM was meeting so many different hygienists, dentists and patients from so many different parts of Iowa. It was a great way to be introduced to new people and even form relationships. Overall, the IMOM experience was fantastic, and I believe it is important for dental hygiene students to get a taste of the real world by volunteering for organizations like this.”

          - Libby Andresen, second-year student

“When we were told we were going to participate in the 2022 IMOM event, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited and nervous because this is a huge event and the patient demographic was going to be different from anything I had ever seen in the clinic. I was immediately directed to radiology, where I spent the next six hours. They informed us we would be using digital sensors and bisecting technique, which was intimidating at first, but I saw it as a great opportunity to learn. The patients I saw were so grateful and appreciative of the work that was being done and it was extremely humbling. While in radiology, I met a dentist and as it turns out he has a practice in Ames, IA, near where I live. Another bonus is they are hiring! After lunch, I went to the hygiene department and I got to see one patient. I performed a gross debridement and again was overwhelmed by how grateful the patient was. Overall, the IMOM experience was something I had never experienced before, and I highly recommend it for all hygiene students. When I graduate, I plan on attending still!”

          - Shelby Cummins, second-year student

“I have sometimes wondered why we take community dentistry and after IMOM it all makes sense. We are truly in the profession for the community because the differences it can make are astounding. I was grateful to be at Iowa Mission of Mercy 2022, and to see what a positive impact I and my fellow classmates were making at this event, not to mention all the other hundreds of volunteers that were present.”

          - Shellee Martinez, second-year student 

“IMOM was a very eye-opening experience. I am really glad we got to go and be a part of something so amazing and life changing for people. It feels great to say that I helped provide dental care to such a struggling population. I spent most of my time in dental triage, and I really enjoyed that position. It was very interesting to see all the differences in oral cavities, radiographs, patient personalities and demographics, etc. Some people were very appreciative and kind. Overall, it was a really good experience and exhausting in a good way. Thanks!”

          - Emily Rooney, first-year student

Courtesy of Iowa Central Community College

Published on January 11, 2023

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