A group of 11 Iowa Central Community College dental hygiene students had the opportunity to reach out and enhance the smiles of thousands recently when they volunteered at the third annual Iowa Mission of Mercy dental clinic.
The weekend clinic, held Nov. 5 and 6 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids provided more than $900,000 in dental care to between 1,500 and 2,000 patients at no cost to those who may have otherwise gone without seeing a dentist. More than 1,000 volunteers helped make the mass dental clinic possible.
The group of second year Iowa Central Students, along with dental hygiene instructor Vikki Markle, spent an entire Saturday assisting hygienists with cleaning, sterilization, running for supplies and taking X-Rays at the clinic, which provided everything from basic teeth cleanings to dentures and oral surgeries.
It was the first time Iowa Central sent a group of volunteers to the event, but Markle said it certainly won't be the last.
"It was such a rewarding experience for all of them, we definitely won't have any problem getting students to back again," she said.
Markle said some of the dental care recipients drove hundreds of miles and even waited overnight for their chance to receive the dental care that so many take for granted.
"It just shows firsthand the need for dental care in Iowa alone," said second-year dental hygiene student Emily Peterson.
It was also a good hands on learning experience, giving the students the opportunity to do mant things they will be doing once they are working in a dental clinic.
"We had the chance to work hand in hand with others in the profession and talk with them about what they do in their practice," said student Hannah Poldervaart. "When they'd take a break, we even had the chance to take over at the chairs and do some cleanings."
Second-year student Kristina Heatherington said she was impressed with the number of different dental services that were able to be provided at the event.
"There was really no limit to what they could do," she said. "Anything anyone needed done, they were able to do it."
With many people still in need of dental care, Markle said the students are always willing to see patients in their clinic, located on the first floor of the Applied Science and Technology Building on the Iowa Central campus.
"Anyone, any age, in need of dental care or a cleaning can come see us at the clinic," Marke said.
The Iowa Central Clinic can be reached at 574-1327.
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org