Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mission of Mercy free dental clinic continues Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Valentina Zahran, an oral & maxillofacial surgery resident at the University of Pittsburgh Dental School, inspects the mouth of Gregory Pflumm, 51, of McKees Rocks, during a 2019 Mission of Mercy event.

Gerald Freeman had just had three teeth extracted Friday morning, but he was happy and smiling – as much as a person with a mouth full of gauze can smile.

Freeman, of Wilkinsburg, was a patient at the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic. The annual event started Friday and continues Saturday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown. Hundreds of patients and volunteers participate in the annual event, which started in 2017.

“It went good. I got in. It went great. It went fast. And I'm happy. I'm happy,” Freeman said, speaking to a reporter shortly after his procedure.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

The teeth Freeman had extracted were the only remaining teeth in the top part of his mouth, but the event was able to connect him with follow-up care for him to get dentures, he said.

Freeman, who arrived at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, said he knew the teeth would have to come out — a previous dental infection, left untreated for too long, had once landed him in the hospital.

“I think one of the things this goes to show is that there's a lot of quiet suffering out there. As we pass each other on the street, we don't realize sometimes what people are dealing with," said volunteer Mark Ochs, an oral maxillofacial surgeon at UPMC who was working with Freeman on Friday.

The event also offers eye and hearing exams this year. The combined clinics had seen more than 600 patients as of early afternoon Friday.

Shirley D'eramo had come from Beaver County to have her hearing checked.

“It turns out I need hearing aids,” she said, speaking just a few minutes after receiving them.

Hearing aids are very expensive, and they are typically not covered by insurance, said Mission of Mercy volunteer Elaine Mormer, an audiologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Communication Science and Disorders Department.

“There's a huge need for hearing help for people — whether they have insurance or not. … As soon as we showed up here this morning, there was a huge line of people to get hearing tests and hearing aids,” Mormer said.

“This entire program is fantastic...what they offer, without questioning anything about you. And they're here to help you,” D’eramo 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.