Mission of Mercy brings one local man to smile big for the first time in years

By WEEK Reporter

June 21, 2014 Updated Jun 23, 2014 at 9:54 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- For the first time in years Peoria resident Michael Pierson can finally do what he never could.

"I can smile. I can smile with confidence! See me smiling with my two front teeth? I love them," said Pierson.

Four years ago he did not have them, but Saturday he was at Peoria's Civic Center for the Illinois State Dental Society Foundation Mission of Mercy where more than 1,000 volunteer dental professionals, students and other volunteers came to give quality dental care to those in need.

"We had a tremendous line of people waiting outside when we came here at 5 a.m.," said Illinois State Dental Society president Dr. Brian Soltys. "And we expect to see another 1,100 patients today."

Cleanings, fillings, root canals, tooth replacements were all services available under one roof.

"All of these are portable dental units," said Mission of Mercy spokesperson Dr. Alice Boghosion. "To see a space like this transform into a dental clinic is truly remarkable."

"We have specialized equipment here -- microscopes for root canals, special x-ray equipment -- so it is not substandard care," said Dr. Soltys. "It is really excellent care."

$1 million worth of services were offered at no charge.

"I'm just honored that they get together to do this, because they don't have to," said Bloomington resident Gwendolyn Young.

Volunteers said they were paid in smiles.

"I'm never going to stop smiling again," said Young.