Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
2016 clinic at the XL Center in Hartford (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — This weekend more than 700 volunteers will provide free dental care to more than 800 people at Windham Middle School during the 13th annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic.

Started in 2008, this will only be the second time the Connecticut Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic was held in the eastern part of the state. The first clinic was held in Tolland at the old high school.

Robert Schreibman, who is the founder of the Connecticut Foundation for Dental Outreach and co-founder of the Connecticut Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic, said about 32 percent of residents in eastern Connecticut live below the poverty line.

Schreibman said they expect to see a lot of “working poor” who have multiple jobs that don’t pay enough.

He said even some government programs like Medicaid and military programs for veterans don’t provide enough coverage for basic dental services.

But access to affordable dental care is a problem that’s universal.

“We get people from every part of the state,” Schreibman said.

Those who are in pain are usually the first ones in line.

The clinic will see patients Saturday and Sunday on a first-come, first-serve basis, which means many patients will camp out overnight or arrive early in the morning before the clinic opens at 8 a.m.

The clinic expects to see about 400 patients each day.

There are about 250 people who have made the clinic their dental home, Schreibman said. However, that’s not exactly something they encourage. He said they are trying to do small clinics at different times in the year to take care of people, like the elderly, who can’t get to the annual clinic.

Schreibman said they try and make sure the patients who come to the clinic are able to find access to dental care that’s more convenient for them.

The services provided at the clinic will include cleanings, fillings, extractions, X-rays, fluoride treatments, sealants, limited root canal treatment on anterior teeth, and limited partial dentures.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14.

Past clinics were held in Tolland (2008), New Haven (2009), Middletown (2010), Waterbury (2011), Danbury (2012), Bridgeport (2013), Hartford (2014), Danbury (2015), Hartford (2016), New Haven (2017) and Torrington (2018).