Visiting the dentist is not a favorite activity for most people, especially if pulling teeth is involved, but at least that and other services will be provided for free next Saturday in Mount Airy.
That’s when Dr. John L. Gravitte is scheduled to host Dentistry from the Heart. It is a fifth-annual charitable event in which Gravitte and his staff will team with other dental professionals and community members to offer care to both adults and children in need.
Registration begins Saturday at 7:30 a.m. for the volunteer-driven service at Gravitte’s office on North Pointe Boulevard off U.S. 52-North, which in the past has drawn legions of patients from near and far. Adults are being advised to arrive early for the free dental clinic that will operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We’ve had hundreds of cars lined up for this event, and many arrive the day prior trying to secure their place in line,” explained Darla Hodges, a longtime employee of Dr. Gravitte’s who volunteers every year.
In 2018, those treated reported sleeping in their cars and camping out in vans overnight in the roadway leading to the facility.
“Last year we served 114 patients and hope to provide care to even more patients in need this year with the help of additional doctors and volunteers,” Marketing Director Amanda Fretwell of the dental office pointed out Thursday.
Participants will receive a dental exam, including oral cancer screening, and their choice of a filling, extraction or hygiene cleaning, according to information from Fretwell.
It also includes guidance for persons seeking care:
• Those who are pregnant or have cancer, heart problems, a joint replacement or a serious medical condition must provide a signed clearance form from their doctors to be eligible for any service.
• Advance reservations are not available, as patients receive care based on their number in line and service provided.
• As a safety precaution, patients will not be permitted on office property before 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Persons wishing to wait off-site in advance must abide by North Pointe Business Plaza and city of Mount Airy regulations. The Mount Airy Police Department will be on hand to assist with traffic control.
• Participants should avoid blocking the entrance or exit of any business.
• Since patients could be waiting outside for a portion of the day, they are advised to be prepared with water or snacks and bring sunscreen and a light jacket.
• Volunteers will be available to assist with completing registration forms along with a translator for Spanish-speaking individuals.
The success of the Dentistry from the Heart event is attributed to the commitment of many volunteers, especially those assisting with the registration and pre-screening process. Services and supplies from local businesses and individuals also are greatly appreciated, organizers say.
Dr. Gravitte’s ‘favorite day’
Gravitte, whose dental practice recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, began hosting the local version of the worldwide non-profit Dentistry from the Heart program after opening a spacious office on North Pointe Boulevard about five years ago.
“We began this event in our new facility that allows us to provide care for more patients and meet their dental needs in one location,” he said in a statement.
“But I didn’t expect the experience to be so rewarding,” added Gravitte, who was born and raised in Mount Airy and looks forward to the annual event. “It’s now my favorite day of the year.”
Dental professionals from across the state also are expected to volunteer their services Saturday.
The Dentistry from the Heart organization, based in New Port Richey, Florida, was launched in 2001 to provide free services on an international basis.
It has grown to include more than 200 annual events at which 80,000-plus people receive dental care at no charge through providers such as Dr. Gravitte.