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The Arkansas Dental Association will run its annual Mission of Mercy free dental clinic Friday and Saturday in the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, according to Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
The clinic is in its third year and is the only chance some low-income residents who lack dental insurance have to get dental care, according to Edie Arey, director of the Arkansas Dental Association.
"When there's not any public assistance out there for dentistry, we're seeing a lot of people who have to make a choice between relieving pain and paying the electric bill," Arey told the paper.
The event is expected to involve more than 900 volunteer dentists and hygienists treating more than 2,000 patients, mostly providing fillings and performing tooth extractions, the article says.
Arkansas ranks 50th in the country for access, according to the news source; there are 40 dentists for every 100,000 people in Arkansas, 20 below the national average. Arkansas has no dental school.
Avery told the news source that lack of dental insurance makes the access problem worse. About 17 percent of Arkansans don't have health insurance, and some 60 percent don't have dental coverage or the means to pay for their dental health.
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