Measuring the Impact: Florida Mission of Mercy

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Missions of Mercy (MOM), a community-based partnership between dental associations and dental and medical industry organizations, brings together volunteer dentists, dental hygienists, and staff to provide free oral health care to underserved communities.

Since 2014, the Florida Dental Association Foundation (FDAF) has coordinated free two-day Florida Mission of Mercy (FLA-MOM) clinics in cities across the state, serving people who might normally be unable to access care or resort to hospital emergency departments for immediate needs.

In this blog, read about the larger outcomes of the FLA-MOM program and how it is impacting society as a whole.

Measuring the Societal Impact of Mission of Mercy Dental Clinics

In Florida, more than 163,000 people visited hospital emergency departments (EDs) throughout the state for a dental issues in 2014. According to the FDAF, this added up to a cost of more than $234 million to the state and its taxpayers.

MOM is a program that can combat the costs of providing dental care to low or no-income families and individuals. Care is provided for free in at-risk communities through volunteer dental professionals and sponsors such as Henry Schein.

We know that FLA-MOM clinics provide a positive outcome for the patient, and we see the joy that giving back to the community brings volunteers. Now, we are measuring the impact on society — people like the taxpayers of Florida — to quantify just how significant an issue poor oral health is in the state and how MOM clinics make a difference for society as a whole.

A new two-year study has been commissioned by FDAF and supported by Henry Schein. For the first time, we’re measuring the impact of the free dental care provided by the FLA-MOM dental clinics on the use (and costs) of local hospital EDs for dental care problems.


(Credit: FLA-MOM 2017 Drone Footage from Florida Dental Association on Vimeo.)

Quantifying the Need for Dental Care

As part of this study, more than 1,600 of the 2,800 patients who attended the 2016 clinic in Jacksonville were surveyed about their oral health and dental care access.

Here are some of the survey results:

  • Three out of four patients surveyed said they would rate their overall teeth and gum health as fair or poor.
  • 27%, or about 435 people, have visited an ED for a dental problem.
  • 63% said they were in pain at the time of the MOM event.
    • One-third had been in pain for more than a year.
  • 82% of these MOM patients are without dental insurance.

Given these preliminary findings, the potential savings of free clinics such as this one to the health care system and taxpayers who support it are potentially large.

Of Florida’s top 10 EDs by dental patient visits, three are in the Jacksonville area. These have an average cost of more than $1,700 per patient, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So, by simply keeping those 435 people who have visited an ED for a dental problem out of the ED, the Jacksonville MOM clinic saved an almost $740,000.

And that’s just Jacksonville.

The potential savings to the health care system and the taxpayer nationally are exponentially higher.

Through our commitment of $250,000 to support 50 Mission of Mercy clinics nationally, Henry Schein is not only helping to ensure needed care to those who are underserved, but also helping taxpayers save many, many times the value of our donation.

This content was originally published in Henry Schein’s 2016 Report on Sustainability and Responsibility. Read more here.