August 10th, 2017
What started as a day-of-care event in a suburban Florida dental office nearly 16 years ago has grown into an international organization aimed at providing free dental care in hundreds of communities throughout the world.
Dr. Vincent Monticciolo, a Florida dentist based in New Port Richey, a suburb of Tampa, had long recognized that far too many bay area residents were going without needed dental care. So on Valentine’s Day in 2001, he hosted his first Dentistry From The Heart event, providing free dental care in his practice to anyone 18 or older.
Hundreds of people attended the inaugural event, some lining up overnight outside Dr. Moticciolo’s practice to receive care the next morning. And due to the success of that first event, Dentistry From The Heart began to spread throughout Florida and the rest of the country.
“Throughout the years, Dr. Monticciolo had a lot of colleagues talk to him about starting Dentistry From The Heart programs in their communities,” said Michelle Sotil, the organization’s director. “During those first few years, he mentored those colleagues and showed them how to set up events of their own.”
Dentistry From The Heart is now a worldwide nonprofit organization. More than 300 events are held annually throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Ireland, Australia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and New Zealand, she said.
At the events, patients are given the option to receive an extraction, filling or cleaning. They are not required to provide identification or disclose the status of their income.
“We give them the option, but most people opt for the extraction,” said Ms. Sotil. “A majority of our patients have some form of untreated dental disease or something requiring immediate attention.”
Organizers suggest that patients requiring additional treatment seek care from regional free clinics or dental schools that offer dental services.
Dr. Monticciolo continues to host events each year in his New Port Richey clinic. During next year’s event, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 9, Dr. Monticciolo hopes to provide care for more than 500 people in his newly opened clinic, which boasts 18 dental operatories, which are rooms or spaces where dentists treat people.
“It truly is a wonderful charity, and each year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Ms. Sotil.