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Willimantic dental clinic serves more than 800 patients for free

WILLIMANTIC-- Volunteer dentists helped give more than 800 patients free dental care this weekend in Willimantic.

"Every day you feel these things wrong with your teeth. It’s just it’s a huge burden lifted," says Heather Christy of New London. She showed up to Windham Middle School at 3 o'clock Sunday morning after being turned away when the clinic was full on Saturday.

She says the wait was well worth it.

"Dental care is expensive if you don’t have dental insurance," says Christy.

The CT Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic served more than 800 people this weekend all feeling the same financial strains of the high cost of dental care. The clinic is involved and efficient. However, it’s expensive to run. It costs about $250,000 to treat 800 patients this year alone.  The dentists do about $1 million dollars worth of x-rays, cleanings, restorations, and extractions during this one weekend.

For one family of three, volunteering is a tradition. Dr. Arteaga has been volunteering since the first clinic 13 years ago.

"It is great because I know there are so many people who can’t afford it and there are so many times where we can’t do everything," says Arteaga, who is an Associate Dean at the UCONN Dental School. "So, at least in this environment we know we can help people get them out of pain."

It's this clinic that made her daughter want to become a dentist, too.

 "I realized that this is great and I want to going to a field where I can help people," says Elena Carrington, a second year dental student at UCONN. "Even a day like this where I can give back, it’s very rewarding."

Arteaga's husband, an Endodontist, is in his sixth year of restoring smiles for free.

"It’s like a dream come true because you know, we're a trifecta," says Dr. Chris Carrington, on what it's like volunteering alongside his family. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor at UCONN Dental.

The CT Mission of Mercy says they already have another, bigger clinic, scheduled in Danbury next March. They expect to serve more than 2,000 people.

Mission of Mercy does other outreach clinics throughout the year as well.

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