MODESTO (CBS13) — Hundreds of people waited hours in long lines for a chance at free dental care provided by an army of dentists from around the state.
Since 2012, the California Dental Association Foundation has provided free care to more than 25,000 people, which is a savings of about $21 million in dental care.
On Friday and Saturday, 800 dentists from around California are helping bring comfort to patients who have lived weeks, months even years with pain. Most of them are unable to access dental care.
Manuel Serna, 47, of Modesto has lived almost 10 years without teeth. He’s missed plenty of good meals. He was one of the first people in line to see the dentist and said he just wants to start living again.
“They gave me a piece of watermelon when I was in line you know what I mean. I was hoping she gave me the thin slices because they had the triangle ones, but they were really thick. So, I could only bite the tip out of it but when am I going to do with the rest,” he said.
Dentists are providing fillings, extractions and root canals free of charge. It’s their way of giving back to the community. So far, they have seen plenty of patients.
“Around 200 to 300 yesterday so, today we got those in the chairs and we got even more coming in. So, it is definitely a busy clinic but you know what? We’re trying to get in as many as we can,” said dentist Elizabeth DeMichelis.
Statewide, organizers say 13 percent of people have no dental insurance. Most don’t see the dentist regularly because of unemployment, the cost of care is expensive and there is a lack of oral health education.
“The dentist volunteer because it is truly the work of the heart. You know, we all see the need at our offices. Even when we are out in the community, we see the need and this is a way that we can give back,” she said.
For Serna, it’s an opportunity to smile, again.
“It feels good. It’s a been a long time,” he said.
The free clinic is open again on Saturday. The doors open at 5:30 a.m. It is first come, first serve, so organizers want people to arrive early.