Hugh McQuaid Photo
Dr. Robert Schreibman (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

The Connecticut Mission of Mercy will hold its eighth annual free dental clinic on March 20 and March 21 at the Western Connecticut State University campus in Danbury, organizers announced Wednesday.

Volunteer dentists and staffers expect to serve thousands of people during the two-day free clinic at the university’s O’Neill Center, Dr. Robert Schreibman said during a Wednesday morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

“We see 2,000 to 2,200 people in two days. We have over 1,600 volunteers. The scope of this project is huge. But we manage. We have absolutely fantastic people volunteering to help,” Schreibman said.

The organization began hosting the free dental clinics in 2008 in an effort to serve residents who do not have access to dental care. The events attract long lines of patients from Connecticut and other states. Patients sometimes begin lining up the night before the clinic opens.

Senate President Martin Looney said that was the case when the clinic came to New Haven. He said the consistently high turnout highlights a significant gap in the state’s health care coverage.

“It was both dramatically heartwarming … to see those people finally getting care but it was also painful to see that they had to wait for a circumstance like this to actually get care,” Looney said.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said the clinics offer a wide range of dental services at no cost to the patients.

“If you’ve never been to one of these missions, you’d have to go in there to really understand what they do. From taking X-rays, to pulling teeth, to filling teeth, to giving root canals sometimes and to replacing teeth,” Wyman said. “Think of anything a dentist does for you in the office, they try to do it in one day for the people that come in, or two days.”

This year will be the second time the free clinic visited Danbury. Western Connecticut State University campus also hosted the clinic in 2012. In prior years the clinic has been held in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Middletown, New Haven, and Tolland. Since 2008, Mission of Mercy has treated more than 13,000 patients, saving them a total of about $7.7 million, according to a press release.