Thousands expected for free dental clinic

Published: Jul. 18, 2011 at 10:43 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2011 at 9:08 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's been a while since Jim Bradstreet had steady work.

"I'm in construction and I haven't really worked in three years", he said.

Bradstreet was one of the first in line at the Charlotte Convention Center Thursday afternoon, long before the doors to a free dental clinic opened on Friday.

"Sometimes the pain from my teeth is so bad I can't sleep.  I can't afford the dentist," Bradstreet said.

He came from Maiden, NC and was prepared to spend as long as was necessary in the building so he could get those problem teeth pulled.  He wasn't alone.

By 6pm on Thursday there were at least 100 people waiting with him.

The North Carolina Dental Society is holding its first Missions of Mercy Free Dental Clinic in Charlotte August 19 and 20.

The clinic is open to the public at no charge on a first come first serve basis.

"I've seen people who are in such need who've had hard times, that homeless person, that mother who has just gone thru a catastrophic event needing treatment on a tooth maybe with an abscess something basically without treatment that could cause death," said Dr. Michael Stout.

He's been practicing dentistry in Charlotte since 1987 and has been active in planning the inaugural event.

WEB EXTRA: Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic

More than 300 dentists are volunteering their time and talents, along with hundreds of hygenists and other volunteers, to provide basic restorative dental care.  They will be cleaning teeth, pulling teeth to alleviate pain, filling cavities, all done in that one visit.

"We're going to do everything we can to help these people.  We're going to work straight thru the night all the way thru Saturday at five PM. We're not going to stop we're just going to work as hard as we can.

That's why we're recruiting all the dentist and hygienists we can," according to Dr. Evan Miller, with Charlotte Endodontics.

Dr. Miller and Dr. Stout, along with the steering committee for the steering committee say they are doing what they can to make this first ever Mission of Mercy clinic in Charlotte as smooth as possible.

But they tell me the real heroes of the day are the volunteers.

"We dentists know what we're going to do, we're going to sit down and get to work, but it's the lay people, all those volunteers that will keep it moving so we can help as many people as we can," says Dr. Miller.  If you want to volunteer you have to sign up on the web site.

Using previous clinics in other parts of the state as a basis, they are planning on seeing as many as two thousand people in the 34 hour period.

"We are hoping to help the people who have fallen through the cracks," Dr. Stout says, "there have been some sleepless nights as we plan for such a huge event, but we are exhilarated at the idea of how many people we can help."

The clinic's web site described those who qualify for the clinic as any adults with income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines.

Broken down, if you make less than $416 dollars a week, you qualify, but they are not asking for proof on income.  They will ask you to register and fill out an income form when you check in. 

All of the work will be done at that visit.  There will be no cosmetic dentistry done.

Here are details of the clinic: it opens Friday August 19 at 6am running non-stop until Saturday August 20th at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Keep in mind at previous clinics the lines start forming the night before because the need is so great.

The Charlotte Convention Center is allowing the line to form inside so heat will not be a problem.

But plan accordingly; pack snacks and drinks and patients, the wait could be long, but as previous patients have described, well worth it!

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