The fourth annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy will be held next weekend, and organizers expect the free dental clinic will serve more than 2,000 people.

The clinic will be held Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Wilby High School in Waterbury. Dental services including cleanings, fillings, X-rays, oral exams, extractions, surgery and partial dentures will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Organizers expect to have at least 105 dental chairs and more than 1,600 volunteers.

Past clinics in Tolland, New Haven and Waterbury have drawn huge crowds of people, some of whom waited overnight outside or in their cars for a chance at free dental care. At last year’s clinic, more than 1,000 people showed up before the clinic opened.

Clinic organizers estimate that between 600,000 and 1 million people in the state do not have access to adequate dental care. During a press conference Thursday, lawmakers and clinic organizers said most children in the state now have dental coverage, but many adults do not, and for some, the annual free clinic has become their source of regular care.

Jon Davis, a Fairfield dentist and president of the Connecticut State Dental Association, said the Mission of Mercy is meant to both provide care and raise awareness about the need to improve access to dental care. The clinics will be held every year until they’re no longer needed, he said.

“The mission is an organization of hope,” Davis said. “They hope that they will be put out of business.”

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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