Career-Defining Experience

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Guest post courtesy of Christopher Walker, Volunteer Coordinator, NCMOM; UNC School of Dentistry 2016

Support the work of NCMOM and other efforts to deliver dental care to the underserved by watching and sharing this Inspired story.

At every North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinic, I notice the long line of patients who waited outside through the night, no matter the weather. These patients are from all walks of life. Most did not choose to avoid dental care; it was simply never a choice they could make. They come hoping for a chance to smile again, and so we come, bringing an army of volunteers, dental professionals and equipment, hoping to rebuild those smiles and change lives.

The North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM) is a mobile dental clinic that offers free dental care to those in financial need who have few other treatment options. NCMOM operates under the N.C. Dental Society and N.C. Dental Health Fund with the goal of providing care to as many under served North Carolinians as is possible and involving as much of the state’s dental community in treating those patients as is possible. Estimates place the number of under served in our state at more than one million, and access to dental care in many areas of North Carolina can be physically and financially out of reach to many residents.

My first experience with NCMOM in 2009 motivated me to be a part of this mission. Before visiting a clinic, I was unaware of the numbers of people in need of dental treatment and access to care. I was also unaware of the dental community’s united effort to help those in need and address this problem through projects like NCMOM. Their coordinated efforts and dedication to serve have inspired my own path to dentistry, which begins this fall as I start my first year of dental school at the UNC School of Dentistry.

NCMOM holds 12 clinics annually, serving patients from the mountains to the sea. Patients’ reasons for putting off dental care varies, but they always take the time to remind us that our event is a blessing—a gift that helps them smile again. Each year as we return to certain areas, local volunteers notice the growth in the event. We bring more equipment, more dentists, more volunteers, all in an attempt to help more patients. As the need continues to grow, so does NCMOM.

One dynamic factor in growth of the clinics’ success came from the mobile X-ray unit provided by a BCBSNC Foundation grant. The X-Ray bus allows NCMOM to perform a digital panoramic X-Ray on each patient for use in the clinic’s dental triage and treatment areas. With this advancement, volunteer dentists are able to efficiently and safely address patients’ immediate needs. Having this equipment also allows dentists to better treat previously undiagnosed issues of which patients may not even be aware.

With the help of hundreds of dentists, hygienists, assistants, dental students and community volunteers, NCMOM was able to treat more than 8200 patients in 2011. We hope to inspire more members of the dental community to help us provide services and continue to spread smiles throughout the state in the coming year.

Inspired to lend a hand at an NCMOM event? Please visit