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Dr. Sarita Arteaga on WNPR

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As aired on WNPR, April 11, 2008.

Dental Clinic Plans Free Care For Hundreds

By Shomial Ahmad

Projects in 5 other states have delivered $7.4 million of free dental care to 18,000 patients.

More than one million Connecticut residents lack access to dental care. But that my change, because a state dental organization is holding the largest free dental clinic in Connecticut history this weekend.

"I'll look at it right before you're ready to restore it. Very good."

Dr. Sarita Arteaga’s doing her standard rounds at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine clinic. She's a professor at the school, and she walks around in her white lab coat with her black hair carefully pulled up. She peers into the wide-open mouths of her students’ patients.

“And what I would do. I would actually try to restore this indentation here. Okay. Just so you can make it even here for your inclusion when you go. Bite together for me.”

On Saturday, Dr. Arteaga along with hundreds of volunteers will be participating in the Connecticut Mission of Mercy-a two-day free dental clinic in northern Connecticut.

The sounds of scraping, drilling and rinsing will fill an old high school gym. Organizers expect nearly 1,000 people to stop by to get acute dental care from either a dentist, dental hygienist or dental students volunteer. Trevann Lyn is one of Arteaga’s students, and he’ll be propped on a stool this weekend, pulling teeth.

“I’m going to be working with oral surgeons that day, so we’re going to be doing basically extractions-the students are. You know, taking down broken-down teeth, teeth that are causing people pain, teeth that are non-restorable.”

The Connecticut State Dental Association is coordinating the event. Organizers say that similar projects in five other states have delivered 7.4 million dollars of free dental care to 18,000 patients.

Dr. Arteaga is the faculty advisor to a student group, and she’s always looking for dental outreach opportunities for her students.

"A lot of times we end up just doing screening or preventive things. But we never get to treat, so this is an opportunity. That's why I'm excited, because we get to move to the next level.”

Part of Dr. Arteaga’s mission in dentistry is to provide care to under-served communities. This weekend’s event in rural Connecticut was planned to help fulfill that mission.