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Free dental clinic for all ages available in Cleveland this week

The Medworks free dental clinic opens at 7 a.m. Nov. 17-18 and offers services on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Medworks free dental clinic opens at 7 a.m. Nov. 17-18 and offers services on a first-come, first-served basis.

Access issues and dentist shortages pose barriers to dental care for many Northeast Ohioans. An event scheduled for this weekend in Cleveland aims to help those who need care.

Free dental work will be available to people of all ages at a clinic Friday and Saturday at the Huntington Convention Center in Downtown Cleveland.

More than 500 local dentists will volunteer to provide free screenings, cleanings, fillings, extractions and partial denture procedures. According to Medworks, the Cleveland-based nonprofit organizing the event, those treatments can range, without insurance, from $125 for a cleaning or $150 for a cavity filling to $300 or more for an extraction.

"The number one barrier is, was and always probably will be money. That's the biggest one. A lot of people simply can't afford it," Dr. Sam Taylor of Taylor Dental in Twinsburg said on the "Sound of Ideas" Thursday. He added that language and transportation barriers also prevent people from receiving dental care.

Taylor said organizers are expecting 1,000 guests at the clinic, many of whom are from the Amish and veteran communities.

This marks the fifth year for the free clinic, which will also offer free flu and COVID-19 vaccines, HIV testing and access to mental health providers.

The Huntington Convention Center is at 300 Lakeside Ave. in Cleveland. Doors open at 7 a.m. and all services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. No identification or insurance is required. Organizers say once capacity has been reached, the clinic will close for the day.

The American Dental Association recommends everyone visit their dentist for an exam and cleaning every six months. Oral health exams can reveal gum disease, which can lead to chronic disease and poor gestational health.

"Inflammation in your gums can lead to inflammation everywhere else in your body," Taylor said. "Eventually the inflammation can turn into infection and infection obviously is terribly dangerous and starts to bother your immune system."

Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence is a digital producer for the engaged journalism team at Ideastream Public Media.