Press Room

Volunteer, patient, helps Georgia Mission of Mercy in Augusta

Dental Health Care Event Prep

Dentist Dr. Jonathan Bullard the Georgia Dental Association's dental health care event starting Friday at the James Brown Arena in Augusta, GA.

In an enormous logistical undertaking, the Georgia Dental Association is setting up 100 dental chairs, and all of the gases and lines that are required to do dental work, inside the James Brown Arena. One of the volunteers helping set that up Thursday is S’ada Solomon, who is hoping to take part in the free dental care herself.

S’ada Solomon sits briefly Thursday in a forest of dental chairs that has suddenly sprouted from the floor of James Brown Arena.

There is a balance to her decision to volunteer Thursday to help set up the place for the 2018 Georgia Mission of Mercy, where more than a thousand dentists, hygienists and other volunteers will offer free dental care to as many as 2,000 patients, including Solomon herself. She’s going to “give back to the community and receive,” she said.

The Georgia Dental Association and its Foundation for Oral Health are sponsoring the two-day event, which required a massive and tricky set-up Thursday of 100 dental chairs by as many as 200 volunteers, some of whom “just showed up” to help, said Dr. Jonathan Bullard, local co-chair for the event with Dr. Annette Rainge. For instance, they suddenly found they had a need for electrical work and some electricians, one of whom is Bullard’s patient, showed up to take care of it, he said.

“I have multiple patients who are helping out,” Bullard said.

Behind him, a thicket of silver wires sprouts from the top of an electrical panel on a wall and snakes its way across a railing. Pointing to a black shroud that runs along the side of the arena floor, “There’s vacuum pumps behind there. Outside there are two air compressors.” The chairs need suction, and electricity and along the arena floor is white plastic pipes connected to plumbing. Fortunately, Bullard said, his dad is a pipefitter and several relatives are pipefitters and plumbers.

Bullard volunteered at the first Georgia Mission in Woodstock in 2011 so he knows to expect a kind of organized chaos as patients are routed first through registration and then through dental education, triage, X-rays, and then to different sections handling fillings, extractions and other basic dental procedures.

“There will be a lot of moving parts for sure,” he said, but each patient will have a guide and there will be plenty of extra help available.

“There’s all sorts of volunteers who are going to be floating,” he said. “You see where the need is and fill in.”

Solomon hopes to have a cavity filled Friday. The former Army sergeant had to quit working two years ago because of injuries she suffered when she was deployed to Iraq in 2006 and is a disabled veteran. However, her medical benefits don’t include dental because she has not yet been recognized as 100 percent disabled.

She also suffers a number of symptoms from Gulf War Syndrome, like a rash she has had for two years, as well as shoulder and back problems. But when she learned about the event through her military sorority, Kappa Epsilon Psi, she knew she had to help out as well.

“There’s a huge need for it, especially in low-income areas,” Solomon said.

She thinks a lot of different people will line up Friday and Saturday to get the care and many will be parents like her who had to put the needs of the family first.

“Sometimes as parents we have to make sacrifices for our children,” said Solomon, who has a three-year-old son named Braylon. “And sometimes we have to let dental go, unfortunately.”