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Dentists provide free dental clinic at Mardi Gras World

New Orleans-The American Dental Association had it's annual conference in New Orleans this weekend. But instead of attendees enjoying a Sunday in New Orleans around town, many people gathered at Mardi Gras World to host a free dental clinic for those in need.

Cassandra Hickman loves what she sees. Looking in the mirror, Hickman says, "They are very pretty and I'm very happy." This is the first time in several years that Hickman has had a full set of teeth. Because of financial reasons, she found it difficult to take care of her mouth.

According to the American Dental Association, many people are in the same boat which is why hundreds of dentists and dental hygienists, already in town for the ADA convention, volunteered their time to perform cleanings, oral surgeries, and make prosthetics among other things.

The Mission of Mercy clinic inspired New Jersey resident Lisa Chascsa to give up her last day in town, in order to help others. "For a long time people disconnected the body from the mouth and there's a huge correlation so again, getting the awareness out there is critical," said Chascsa.

According to Matthew Messina, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association, a large number of Americans polled believe dental benefits are part of the Affordable Care Act, but for adults, they're not. Messina says that's why he believes so many people show up to free clinics like this one, looking for care. The ADA wants to spread the message that taking care of your teeth is relatively easy. "Just because you may have a financial problem seeing the dentist, if you take care of the preventative steps we can avoid problems from getting bigger later on," Messina said.

Steven Truxillo was urged by his wife to attend the clinic Sunday. Living for 10 years without teeth because of a gum disease Truxillo says it's time for a new start. He explains, "I'm sure as soon as the family members and all see me, they're all gonna smile."

Which is exactly the response these volunteers are hoping for.

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