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N.C.'s largest free dental clinic held in Durham

Posted March 12, 2010

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— Hundreds of people lined up outside the National Guard Armory in Durham early Friday for the first day of what might be the state's largest free dental clinic.

"We were here at 3:30 (a.m.). We were probably about 80th in line," patient Geneva Cash said.

Cash got her teeth cleaned, and her husband had six teeth pulled.

"It's a big deal to have hurting teeth, because that's a pain who can't subside with Tylenol," patient Michael Hall said.

Free dental clinic held in Durham Free dental clinic held in Durham

Hall said he had been suffering with two sore teeth for a couple weeks, but he hadn't been to the dentist.

"I can't afford it. It costs too much," he said. "I'm going to get both of them pulled today."

The North Carolina Dental Society sponsors the two-day Missions of Mercy clinic. About 100 volunteer dentists and hygienists hope to X-ray, clean, fill or pull teeth for about 1,000 adults who can't afford regular dental care.

The clinic will also run 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Durham National Guard Armory on Stadium Drive. Lines form early, and patients will be seen on a first-come, first-serve basis. Patients must be age 18 or older and earn less than 200 percent of the national poverty level annually.

(See a schedule of statewide clinics for the rest of the year.)

Dr. Bill Blaylock said many patients have no other options for dental care than the clinic.

"People actually just walk around with toothaches for months, waiting for us to get to a clinic near them," Blaylock said. "I just talked to an oral surgeon. He took out 23 teeth on one person."

Blaylock said the statewide series of clinics used to serve mainly the working poor, but that's been changing.

"We're seeing a shift to people who have jobs who had dental insurance. They've lost their jobs and their benefits, so they're coming to us for help," he said.

In 2009, Missions of Mercy clinics treated more than 5,300 patients and provided $2.2 million in free dental care.

Patients said they appreciate the care.

"There's not enough words you can say. 'Thank you' is tool small to say. They're heaven-sent, really," Cash said.

7 Comments

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  • Big Mike Mar 12, 6:59 p.m.

    Wildcat and Sketch.....cudo's to you! I totally agree.....for those who take dental issues lightly......may the toothache from h**l get ya! Then you'll understand what these folks without insurance are going through! Great program and God bless the dentists who participated.

  • airengr Mar 12, 6:51 p.m.

    Gee, if we only had "free" government health care, we wouldn't need caring, sincere people like this. Nor would we need church food pantries, the Salvation Army, or any of a number of such organizations that help people. Some body should have thought of that ... wait a minute W did think of it!

  • sketch Mar 12, 5:52 p.m.

    "BLESS THESE DENTAL PEOPLE FOR DOING god'S WORK"- wildcat...?!?!? wt?
    please...this was a free dental service not some religous expierience

  • vaulter Mar 12, 5:50 p.m.

    If you brush your teeth everyday, you won't need to have 23 teeth pulled...

  • Mustange Mar 12, 4:26 p.m.

    This is great, plese keep this going, maybe expand to some other parts of the state would be nice, but this is a start. Thanks to all of the dentist who are doing this work.

  • moth Mar 12, 4:24 p.m.

    Gum disease used to kill millions - at at todays prices its probably going to return with a vengeance.

  • wildcat Mar 12, 3:57 p.m.

    BLESS THESE DENTAL PEOPLE FOR DOING GOD'S WORK.