‘The Woodstock of Dentistry’

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Crowds of thousands flock to southern California, as if pulled by some magical force. And that magical force is the acute pain they feel from both their teeth that are desperately in need of dental attention, and from the fact that they have no insurance and no other options but to sleep out overnight waiting for dentists offering free treatment.

Remote Area Medical, the volunteer operation that travels around the world—mostly to developing countries—treating patients’ medical needs for free, provided nearly $3 million in treatments last summer during an eight-day visit to Los Angeles.

Now, these volunteer angels have returned to the City of Angels, reports the LA Times, and while there are all sorts of health care needs to attend to, the crowds seem especially desperate for the experts to take a look at their long-neglected teeth. The LA Times piece, in which one dentist jokingly refers to the gathering as “The Woodstock of Dentistry,” describes the scene as grim, and the patients as extremely grateful:

It’s one thing to debate healthcare reform and mull over economic markers, or to wrestle with insurance companies over policy limits and deductibles. It’s something entirely different to see thousands of desperate people in one of the most privileged cities in the nation lining up day after day in the sun because they can’t afford eyeglasses, root canals, mammograms.

“I never dreamed that somebody could spend a whole day outside the Forum, sleep overnight in the parking lot and wait outside the whole next day, just to get a filling,” said Roger Fieldman, president of the Los Angeles Oral Health Foundation and coordinator of this year’s dental volunteers.

Reminder: As a WalletPop post mentioned not long ago, the monumental health care reform bill passed has virtually no provisions for dental care.