Extreme Dentist Shortage Leads To 'Dental Therapists' Filling Cavities

Claire Gordon

The vacant Walmart in Kansas City, Kan., opened its doors at 8 p.m. By 5:30 in the morning, there were 1,200 men, women, and children inside. Organizers had to close the parking lot. The 165 volunteer dentists could only fix up so many mouths.

The Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation held its 11th free clinic in February, known as the Kansas Mission of Mercy. In two days, volunteers treated over 2,000 patients, bringing the total that the clinic has helped over the past decade to more than 20,000.

"It feels really good," said Lisa Gonzales, a dentist who co-chaired the event, as she choked back tears. "But I'm still hung up on all the ones they turned away."