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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A free dental clinic brings thousands of people to St. Louis. And hundreds of dentists volunteering for two days straight wasn't even enough to help them all, even after opening a half-hour early on Saturday. They were able to treat close to 2,000 people, and that wasn't even everyone who came to get care. Experts say it's a sign of a major problem.

Most people came to the clinic because they didn't have insurance. So, they were eager to wait in the long lines. And, more than 200 dentists volunteered to work two days straight for more than 12 hours a day. But the need was so great, organizers were forced to turn at least 100 people away.

"Sadly, not everybody gets everything addressed. So we try to focus on what was done, and lots of people got in got things taken care of," said Dr. Stuart Waite, one of the organizers for Missouri Mission of Mercy.

By Saturday late afternoon, hundreds of thank you notes were posted down the hall of Chaifetz Arena. They were a symbol of the appreciation, and the need, for the free clinic.

"This is an effort to make a dent in a problem. Oral health is an under-appreciated thing until you're in pain," Waite said.

So, dentists say part of the solution is prevention. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 59 percent of Missourians have visited a dentist in the past year, which is a figure that's among the worst in the nation. In Illinois, the percentage rose to 66 percent.

"On one hand we're all responsible to do more for our own health," Waite said.

But on the other hand, there are those without the option of visiting a dentist. So, that's where the health professionals come in who offered their time and services for free.

Those who weren't able to get in during the clinic are being encouraged to contact the Missouri Dental Association. You can find them online here: momom.org.

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