Bradford dentist to provide free Dentistry From the Heart this week
Dentistry From The Heart provides free basic dental services to patients of all ages on a first-come, first-served basis.
Dr. Jesse Chai, at right, and part of his team at last year’s Dentistry from the Heart free dental services event. Miriam King/Bradford Today
Dr. Jesse Chai and his team at Bradford Family Dentistry in Bradford West Gwillimbury are doing it again.
On May 31, the team is gearing up for their ninth annual Dentistry From The Heart event – a day of free basic dental service, open to everyone, and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
The doors open at 8 a.m., and work will continue until 6 p.m. – providing free cleanings, fillings and extractions. Over the past eight years, Bradford Family Dentistry has provided more than $200,000 in free dental care to Ontarians, at the offices at 76 Holland St. W. in Bradford.
Dentistry From The Heart was launched in 2001 by Florida dentist Dr. Vincent Monticciolo, who was shocked when he learned that, as a result of an economic downturn, a huge number of Americans were foregoing basic dental services because they could not afford dental care.
To give back, he began providing free dental care at his office in New Port Richey – a concept that was embraced by other dental professionals.
Now, Dentistry From The Heart is a registered non-profit organization, and has inspired more than 300 events annually, not only in the U.S., but in Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Dentistry From The Heart event in Bradford has attracted patients from as far away as northern Ontario, some of whom line up in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to be among the first seen by Chai and his volunteers.
“It all comes down to wanting to provide something greater to my community,” said Chai – whose offices, decorated with movie and sports memorabilia and collectibles, have been giving patients a reason to smile.
“The services provided by us as part of Dentistry From The Heart help more than just a patient’s teeth, it gives each person a renewed confidence and a reason to smile,” Chai said.
Hendricks Family Dentistry is offering a free day of dental care to the community from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22 at its offices at 4181 Center Road, Brunswick. Dr. Jamison Hendricks, Dr. Clayton Rogers, and team, along with special guest Dr. Richard Benninger, will be donating their time and talents to serve those who are in need of dental care.
Those who attend must be 18 or older, must not be a current patient of record and may choose from teeth cleaning, extraction or filling.
A complimentary breakfast will be provided and a food truck will be there in the afternoon. No appointments are necessary.
For many years, Hendricks has envisioned a free event to give to those who may not have access to dental care. He notes that their team is extremely excited to partner with Dentistry From the Heart to make that vision a reality.
Scores of people began lining up Friday afternoon in order to secure a once-a-year opportunity for dental care on Saturday.
The day marked Dr. John Gravitte’s fifth year of participation in the Dentistry from the Heart program in which people in need of dental care, but who cannot afford it, are treated for no charge.
Potential patients began arriving as early as 3:30 p.m. Friday, lining the streets surrounding Gravitte’s office off Galax Trail near Northern Wellness and Fitness. The event is strictly first-come, first-served, and needy patients are willing to wait overnight in their cars, the place where they are parked marking their spot in line.
Lowes Food provided fresh apples and bananas for patients during their long wait. Coffee and water were also available. Portable toilets were set up to make an overnight car camp easier to get through.
“A lot of people need help, and a lot of these people are in pain,” said Amanda Fretwell, marketing director for Dr. Gravitte. “We try to be as efficient as possible and see as many people as we can.”
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, 96 people were either waiting in line, or were in the process of being seen. The number of people waiting is monitored so that everyone waiting in line is seen, according to Fretwell.
Dr. Gravitte enlisted a dental school classmate, Dr. Sam Hayes of Asheville (an oral surgeon) and his wife, Dr. Sapna Hayes, as well as Dr. Angela Cassar of Clemmons and Dr. Laura Phelps of Kernersville, to help care for the large number of patients that turn out each year.
Eighty volunteers were present, including Gravitte’s employees, Mount Airy High School’s HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) Club students, Surry Community College nursing students, University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Dental Club, students from Forsyth Technical College and Wilkes Community College’s dental assisting program, and hygienists and dental assistants who work for other dentists. Along with the professional and student volunteers, patient volunteers also lend a hand. Half of the volunteers have participated all five years since the event began.
Fretwell said that they were hoping to see more than 120 patients, up from 114 last year, but that it depended on the kinds of cases they have. In the end, 117 patients were seen, but the number of procedures per person was doubled from the prior year, according to preliminary totals.
Patients are given a choice of services: they can get a cleaning, a filling or an extraction. With an oral surgeon present, even complicated extractions are possible.
“If a patient has a cracked tooth and needs more invasive treatment, Dr. (Sam) Hayes can assist,” said Fretwell.”
In addition to the treatment of their choice, patients all received X-rays, a dental hygiene gift bag and an oral cancer screening.
“Rates of oral cancer in our area are very high,” said Fretwell, “and everyone gets a painless, two-minute exam. The Highway 52 corridor has the highest rate of oral cancer in the entire United States, and we also have the highest population of young adults with oral cancer. Educating parents and kids about that risk is very important.”
Linda Cockerham of Claudville, Virginia, was among the first people in line. Last year, she was at the very front of the line. She’s gotten cleanings both years, and has been coming every year since she saw a news story about the free clinic.
“They’re going to make me pretty,” she said. Cockerham added that as one of seven children (five boys and two girls) growing up on a farm, she didn’t have the best opportunities for dental care back then.
“I’d have pretty teeth like you do, if I’d taken care of them,” she said to her hygienist for the day, Whittley McMillian, as McMillian put on her mask and went to work, ending the possibility of further comment from Cockerham.
At the first Dentistry from the Heart in 2014, Fretwell said people still remember how cold it was. There was sleet and snow, and she was grateful for the good weather this year. There were only 30 volunteers that first year, and as the number has grown, the capacity to serve more people has, too.
“We try to make a difference in our community,” she said.
Dentistry From The Heart is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing free dental care to those in need. Every year, individual dentists across the country donate their time and resources to host their own events. Village Dental is pleased to host our next event on Saturday, May 4th starting at 7 a.m. at our Olde Raleigh location.
Please note you will be seen on a first come, first served basis.
Navarro Dental Center will host its fifth annual Dentistry from the Heart event Saturday, May 4 at 1661 W. Second Ave.
Arrive early registration starts at 7:30 a.m. Patients will be seen on a first come, first served basis. This is a free dental care event.
Patients are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather and to bring chairs, blankets, water, snacks, etc as they may be outside waiting to be see. Patients will have their choice of filling, extraction or cleaning and will be performed for those 21 years and older who can’t get dental care elsewhere.
First 100 patients are guaranteed to be seen. For more information call 903-872-1661.