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Annual Mission of Mercy free dental clinic to be held Friday and Saturday downtown

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Mission of Mercy volunteers are pictured in this file photo from a previous year.

Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh, a large-scale free dental clinic, will return to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week. More than 1,000 volunteers and hundreds of patients are expected at the multi-day event.

The annual event is offering free eye and hearing care to patients this year as well.

The clinic runs Friday and Saturday.

“There are no eligibility requirements. So, you show up, as long as we have capacity, we’ll treat you,” said Keith Young, chairman of A Call to Care, which sponsors the event.

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The clinic served more than 950 patients last year. Among the reasons patients gave for needing to use the clinic—the cost of dental care; not having insurance; not being able to find a dentist who would take a payment plan; or not being able to find a dentist in their area, among others.

More than 76 million Americans lack dental insurance, according to one recent estimate.

Some untreated dental problems can lead to other serious medical issues.

“I have seen quite a few patients who come through the emergency department in need of dental care. They come in, they're in trouble, they're in pain. Frequently they're infected, and they're suffering from pretty extensive dental disease,” said Dr. Daniel Pituch, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at UPMC Mercy and UPMC Shadyside and one of the co-founders of the event.

“By establishing a clinic, an annual event, we can at least provide access to dental care once a year to patients that are in need of this. And fortunately, Pittsburgh is a very giving community,” Dr. Pituch said.

Organizers emphasized that despite the large venue and scale of the event, they aim to treat all patients with respect and dignity.

“I really hope people take advantage of the opportunity …. We know that it is tough to come into a huge convention center and try to have dental care done. So, we try to make it as welcoming and comforting as we possibly can to help people get this care because this is critical to their health long-term,” Young said.

Mission of Mercy free dental, vision and hearing clinic will run Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. No registration is required. Doors open at 6 a.m. each day and will be closed when capacity is reached. For more information:

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.