Dentists Treat Serious Problems at Central Va. Free Clinic

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May 1, 2010

The first wide-scale free dental clinic in Central Virginia drew hundreds to Orange County Saturday to get treatment for serious dental problems. Walk-ins were welcome, after organizers initially had to turn people away Friday.

Many were nervous and anxious as they waited to be seen by the dentists, but by the time they left the chair, they were grateful for the opportunity to be treated for some long-standing dental issues.

"I'm nervous. Very, very nervous," says Tabitha Washington. She's waited hours with her friend Stephany to get her cavities filled.

"I think [the worst part] is the drilling, and I don't like needles," says Washington.

But the pain of the Novocaine needle is minor compared to the months of pain both girls have endured.

"It's been bothering me for quite a while, a few months, actually," says Stephany. "I have two little holes in my front teeth, so I need to get that taken care of."

Sixty-two dentists treating about 500 patients Saturday at the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Station in Orange County. Many of the patients needed teeth extractions and dentures.

"The dentist is too expensive to afford most of the time," says Roland Bottomley.

Bottomley had his chance to see a dentist this time, however. After getting an aching tooth pulled, he asked for a filling on another tooth, and received it immediately. The entire experience was strange, but not unpleasant, Bottomley said. Patients were seen all in the same room, with all the dentists operating on them at the same time.

"It's pretty interesting. Sort of a mass production idea of dental work. It's pretty cool," says Bottomley.

Dentists moved so efficiently that the Director of the Piedmont Mission of Mercy called people they had to turn away during registration Friday, and asked them to come back for the clinic Saturday.

"We were so on it this morning that our imaginary schedule was that our first patient would be in the chair at 7:00 am, and at 7:01 am the first patient sat down," says Jack Thompson.

As Stephany got in the chair for her treatment, her friend Tabitha waited patiently. She dreads the dentist, but is looking forward to a healthy smile.

Care moved along faster than expected. The clinic was winding down by 3:00 pm. Organizers say they are still trying to determine whether another free dental clinic with the Piedmont Mission of Mercy will be held this time next year.

All funding for the free clinic came from donations and grants; no tax dollars were used. Officials estimate that the cost of the entire clinic is more than $40,000.

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