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Every day, Dan Pituch sees first hand the result of dental neglect.
As the chief of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at UPMC Mercy and UPMC Shadyside, he sees a steady stream of patients coming into the ER requiring surgery on a tooth. He says that many of the patients can’t afford regular trips to the dentist and end up in the ER.
“My colleagues and I are the ones who are called on to treat this,” Pituch says. “At that point, the patient is left with a scar, or worse. I’ve seen these situations become life-threatening. All of those problems would be preventable if the patient gets early treatment.”
Pituch co-founded a not-for-profit called Face2Face Healing and partnered with TeleTracking Technologies Inc. and UPMC Health Plan to organize and execute Mission of Mercy, a two-day event at the A.J. Palumbo Center on Duquesne University’s campus, that brings dental diagnoses, minor restorative fillings, extractions and cleanings to people who couldn’t afford it otherwise. Pituch partnered with his son, an engineering student, to draw up a floor plan that brings together 700 volunteers and 50 work stations that can treat 1,400 patients for everything from a regular cleaning to complex oral surgery.
“This is a 50-chair clinic built from the ground up on a gymnasium floor,” Pituch says. “On Thursday morning, a tractor trailer arrived at the gym and the Duquesne football team unloaded it for us. We used chalk outlines from our floor plan, created an assembly line and built this all in one day.”
For Michael G. Zamagias of TeleTracking Technologies Inc., one of the events sponsors, the effort is the result of what he refers to as the “community of compassion.” He says that nearly $1.4 billion is spent on treatment for conditions that are preventable with things like regular dental checkups.
“A lot of the people here, they just don’t know where to go,” Zamagias says. “As much as this is about dentistry, it’s a about compassion.”