After swallowing a crown on his front tooth, the song “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” carried a whole new meaning for 31-year-old Erik Heil, a Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athlete from Wausau.
On a tight budget and without dental benefits, Erik spent nearly an entire year with a partial tooth.
“They said that he needed a …new tooth that would have cost $900. He simply couldn’t afford that,” said his mother, LuAnne who accompanied Erik to the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) and WDA Foundation Mission of Mercy event.
But for Erik, who works in the front lines of the grocery store, missing a tooth was damaging to his self-esteem.
Care seemed out of reach until LuAnne heard about the 2012 Mission of Mercy event, where the WDA teamed up with SOWI to again provide free oral health treatment to 31 athletes with urgent dental needs. Over the two days, Special Olympics Wisconsin patients received 99 fillings, 24 extractions, 4 root canals, 4 core build ups, and 27 cleanings.
Dr. Hussong worked with Erik to perform basic restorative work, fix his tooth and fill cavities.
“This will help Erik’s confidence, self esteem… and certainly his smile,” he said with a look of sincerity in his eyes.
“It’s wonderful these dentists are willing to [treat people like Erik],” LuAnne said. “There is so much bad in the world…but then you see all this…it’s amazing.”
At the 2012 WDA Mission of Mercy held on June 29-30 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, dentists were among 1,810 volunteers who logged 3,595 patient visits. This added up to $1.75 million in donated care. Dr. Hussong said that dentists want to help people, which is why they flock to the WDA Mission of Mercy. According to Dr. Hussong., while these programs provide a “band-aid”, dentists need to continue to take a proactive approach to finding answers to help reduce barriers to care for all Wisconsin residents. Next time you’re choosing your purchases at your local grocery store, remember that it is often the smiles of those workers, like Erik, who break the monotony of these trips. Thanks to the WDA Mission of Mercy and Dr. Hussong., Erik can now confidently flash his smile. For more information, visit www.wda.org.