Cougars donate time, shadow professionals
The University of Houston’s pre-dental society joined The Texas Mission of Mercy in providing free dental services at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio on April 13.
The society is the first pre-dental organization to ever participate in a charity event with TMOM, which has been hosting charity events in different cities across Texas since 2001.
TMOM is a dental commission that hosts one- to two-day charity events in the hopes of “relieving pain and restoring smiles,” according to their website.
TMOM brings volunteers and doctors in the field of dentistry together to administer different services to families, such as wisdom tooth extractions, cosmetic fillings of front teeth, fillings on molars and baby teeth extractions on children.
“We were just assisting (the dentists)… We did extraction, x-rays, a whole medley of stuff,” said Chris Punch, an officer for the pre-dental organization. “Whatever they needed us to do. Some of us are certified, so some could do more than others.”
The pre-dental organization at UH has participated in the charity events for about 18 semesters, said a press release by Farhan G. Ahmed, co-president of the American Student Dental Alliance.
Punch had worked with TMOM in the past.
“This is my third or fourth time going to a charity event with TMOM,” Punch said. “It feels good going there, helping patients and assisting the dentists.”
The organization left Thursday to help set up with 500 other volunteers in the St. Mary’s University arena, which held approximately 40 dental chairs to treat more than 1,000 patients from low-income families. Nearly half of them were walk-ins, according to Ahmed.
During the set-up, only specific people can put together the equipment, but during the tear-down, everyone can help except for with the x-ray machine.
“It’s fun. We’re helping people, talking with and shadowing dentists and getting a better understanding of dentistry,” Punch said
Out of all the universities and other volunteers, UH had the largest group and were the only ones there who stayed until the end to clean up.
“The set-up isn’t that bad,” Punch said. “It’s the tear-down that takes a while.”
Over the course of two days, dental treatment was given to patients for 30 to 45 minutes each, and the costs rose to more than $400,000.
“There was one time where this lady came in who had never brushed her teeth,” Punch said. “She had so much plaque built up we had to drill away before we could get to her to teeth. I had to get in there and pull the plaque out.”
Students of the American Student Dental Alliance at the University were also involved with providing services at the event; they screened patients, sterilized the instruments, performed x-rays and aided the dentists in giving patients information about oral hygiene and the importance of oral health care, Ahmed said.
Every year TMOM hosts two events in different cities in Texas. The pre-dentistry students at UH hold bake sales and candy sales to help with funding each time.
“We basically ask for money and sell what we can,” Punch said.
“It’s a different city every time — last time it was Waco, and next we’re going to Victoria.”