Transforming Smiles: 21st Dental Clinic Provides Free Dental Care Published Oct. 20, 2023 By Abigail Behan Space Base Delta 1 Public Affairs PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A smile is worth a thousand words, and members of Peterson’s 21st Dental Squadron helped hundreds of people smile brighter during last month’s Mission of Mercy clinic that ran from Sept. 22-23, in Greeley, Colorado. The Colorado Mission of Mercy is a large-scale, two-day event that is held annually in a different Colorado community each year. The non-profit organization has treated 18,000 patients and given out $16,000,000 in free dental care since its inception in 2007. Peterson’s 21st Dental Squadron provided a seven-member team to the event and began providing care to those in need. "Over a span of two-days, our team fabricated 73 complex appliances and dental prosthetics at no cost to local underprivileged patients, helping to provide over a million dollars in free care," said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Pennell, Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of Area Dental Laboratory Logistics. The idea behind the clinic is simple: Establish a two-day event and invite the community in. No questions are asked when providing services. Based on the urgency of their dental needs, patients are assessed, prioritized and given care. Dental services rendered consist of cleanings, fillings, extractions and root canals, all at no cost to the patient. "It was a very rewarding experience for the team, and we were very happy to help out the community,” Pennell said. “We got to provide dental care to those in need while also gaining experience providing care to patients outside the Armed Forces." The Dental Squadron had the unique opportunity to take on challenging dental cases, such as individuals missing most of their teeth. “I made a removable partial denture for a man that replaced all his front teeth with denture teeth,” Pennell said. “When the Dentist inserted the appliance, he had a huge smile and it looked natural. You could tell that the appliance was life-changing to this man, and it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. Everybody on the team had a story similar to that and I couldn't be prouder of my team for all the hard work they accomplished.” Along with receiving no-cost dental care, patients also received oral health education along with their families. "Patients received individualized training on how to care for their teeth, the value of a healthy diet, and the necessity of preventive dental treatment in order to achieve prolonged oral health,” Pennell said. “This is vital to overall health and education is so important to avoid future implants and dentures." Since 1973, the 21st Dental Squadron has helped improve the quality of life for Department of Defense service members and veterans due to defects, cancer, injuries and much more. For more information, visit Mission of Mercy.