Some camp overnight for a chance to get free dental work

Patients receive free dental care during Care to Share at Millhopper Family Dentistry in Gainesville on Saturday.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.

Carmen Fountaine is about to get married and wanted a present that couldn't come in a box.

After camping out on a damp and chilly Friday night, Fountaine got the gift she wanted by sitting in a dentist's chair and having work done for free at Millhopper Family Dentistry.

"We got here about 8 p.m. last night. It was very cold, but we had a heater, lounge chairs and lots of blankets and good company," Fountaine said. "I'm getting married, and I found out about this. I thought, ‘wow, it would be great to get my teeth fixed for my wedding.' I'm really excited."

Millhopper dentists Ken Knopf and Alecia McDonald and their staff were joined by volunteer dentists, hygienists and assistants from throughout the community to provide free dental care to 100 people.

McDonald earlier told The Sun that the event is a way for the practice to help the community.

Fountaine and her finance, Dixon Boatwright, were part of a group of Hawthorne residents who got to the practice the night before to ensure they would be seen.

And they were not alone. Many others camped overnight for a chance at free fillings, extractions and cleanings. Other health screenings, such as blood-pressure checks, also were done.

Many of those waiting said they typically delay dental work until it becomes an emergency because they lack insurance and the cost of the work is prohibitive.

Fountaine, for instance, said the last time she had any dental work, she had to get a $1,500 bank loan to pay for several extractions.

Patricia Campbell, who camped overnight, said the last dental work she had done was at the same event last year.

"I have one that needs extracting. I had one extracted here last year. It would have to come out of your pocket if they didn't have this," Campbell said. "Since it's free, why not come? Dental work is so expensive. I couldn't afford it."

This is the fourth year of the free event.

Tim Murphy, an office assistant for Millhopper Family Dentistry, said all the practice's staff — including the four dentists — were participating Saturday. About 40 people volunteered in all, including staff from other practices.

Murphy said various companies donated some of the materials used such as cleaning paste and gloves.

"It's been really smooth. Honestly, in other years, it was a lot more crazy," Murphy said.

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