By Prue Salasky, firstname.lastname@example.org
8:47 PM EST, March 2, 2014
Ten dentists and 10 dental hygienists will donate their time and expertise to provide free dental care to anyone who needs it at Norge Dental Clinic on Saturday, March 22. They will offer cleanings, fillings or extractions at no charge.
Under the guidance of dentist Tim Johnston, the clinic is participating for a third year in the national "Dentistry from the Heart" event. The worldwide charitable event was founded by Dr. Vincent J. Monticciolo in Florida 13 years ago in response to the need he saw. Each year, now, dental practices around the globe serve thousands of patients and provide millions of dollars in care.
"It's 100 percent completely free," said Johnston, who described it as a day of crisis management. "By the time it hurts, it needs to be removed," he said. "People put if off from fear, or because they can't afford it. There are no qualifying income guidelines for participation.
At last year's event, the volunteer staff saw more than 200 patients and conducted more than 100 cleanings, working from morning until night. "It's fun to give back," said Johnston, whose entire practice — four dentists and eight hygienists — will participate, along with others from Williamsburg and Richmond.
In all, almost 100 volunteers pitch in, organized by hygiene coordinator Alyssa McDonald. "Volunteers do parking, keeping the line in order, making sure the kitchen and hallways stay clean, taking the trash cans out. We have a lot of different people making it happen," she said. "Around lunchtime we'll cook for our patients in line — hamburgers on the grill, that sort of thing."
The clinic has 16 chairs, ideal for such an event, and the volunteers anticipate serving close to 300 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Some are repeat visitors for a once-a-year cleaning; others return to deal with "the next worse one," as each customer is allowed just one procedure. "Sometimes we may try a couple of somethings," said Johnston.
People start lining up in the early morning — even overnight — for the 8 a.m. start with a steady stream served until after 5 p.m. The focus of the day is on adults, as there are some other local no-charge options for children, such as the Olde Towne Medical Center, said Johnston.
Prior to getting their dental care, participants receive a basic health screening to look for any underlying diseases, such as borderline diabetes or heart disease. Nurses and paramedics volunteer their time in order to obtain health histories and proper screenings.
"We're so fortunate in being flush with people wanting to help," said Johnston.
Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.
What: The 3rd annual "Dentistry From the Heart" event with free extractions, fillings, or cleanings.
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. March 22; first come, first served.
Where: Norge Dental Clinic, 7450 Richmond Road, Norge.
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