Jose, a visitor at a Mobile Dental Clinic, sitting in a chair to get one of his teeth extracted

Jose took the day off work and traveled more than an hour to visit a Mobile Dental Clinic. When the pain in his mouth became too excruciating, he made the visit at the recommendation of an ER doctor.

As the pain in Jose’s mouth grew more intense, he found himself losing sleep and having trouble eating.

A construction worker living in Southeast Portland, Jose, 46, doesn’t have access to employer-provided health insurance. For the past decade, he’s avoided dentists, believing he could manage any problems that arose on his own.

But the pain in his mouth is like something he’s never felt before. It hurts “like hell, like I lost my jaw,” Jose says from the small waiting area aboard Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental clinic.

The pain is a sign of something serious, Jose says. Once it grew unbearable, he sought treatment at the emergency room, only to be turned away. The doctor there told Jose he needed to see a dentist.

A couple of weeks later, Jose hopped in his car on his day off from work to make the hour-long drive to a Mobile Dental Clinic in Hillsboro, Ore. Clad in a University of Oregon sweatshirt, Jose chats about college basketball as he waits his turn to see a dentist. He says he’s overjoyed to have access to dental care for the first time in a decade.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford it without this clinic,” Jose says.

Married with a daughter and a son, Jose says he wants to take better care of himself in light of a health scare he had a couple of years back. That’s when doctors diagnosed Jose with diabetes, complications from which left him bedridden for three weeks and temporarily blind.

He nearly died, he says.

Now he goes to the gym regularly with his son and tries to eat better. But with his teeth in bad shape, the thought of eating anything makes him think of nothing but pain.

The clinic’s volunteer dentist confirms that Jose had a serious cavity and infection. He’ll need to extract the tooth to relieve Jose’s pain.

The extraction takes about 20 minutes. At the end of it, through a gauze-filled grin, Jose says he’s grateful for the help. As a working man with a family, he’ll only take a helping hand from strangers as a last resort. The help he received at the Mobile Dental clinic both eased his pain and lifted a weight of worry from his mind.

He says he would like to use the service again, possibly to seek care for his young daughter. She also requires dental care that is more expensive than what he can afford, he says.

He thanks everyone who eased the pain in his life and made the clinic possible. Now, he can continue focusing on making healthy changes to his lifestyle.

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