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Charlotte Area

Free Dental Clinic Arrives In Charlotte

Chair in a dentist's office. .mp3

By Saturday evening, there should be fewer toothaches in Charlotte. A two-day free dental clinic gets underway Friday morning at the Charlotte Convention Center. Hundreds of dentists and other volunteers will provide care to low-income and uninsured patients. Many people complain about a trip to the dentist. But hundreds of Charlotte-area residents will line-up on Friday and Saturday for the chance to get their teeth cleaned, cavities filed, or a tooth pulled. The local clinic is coordinated by North Carolina Missions of Mercy, which is a non-profit outreach program of the North Carolina Dental Society. "We can't solve the access to care issue", says Missions of Mercy Program Director Bill Blaylock. "But this is the way the dental professionals of North Carolina give their time and expertise to help all these wonderful people that need our help." The free clinic is open to adults with incomes of less than about $21,700 per year. That's about twice the federal poverty level. Income restrictions are higher for couples and families. Missions of Mercy sponsors about a dozen of the clinics across North Carolina each year. Charlotte dentist Evan Miller, co-chair of the local event, says the program provides a window into how the recession has affected people. "In the blink of an eye ago, they had a good job - a paying job with benefits. Now they're in our chair because they used to have good dental care and they haven't had their teeth cleaned for three years." Organizers expect the Charlotte clinic to provide free care to between 1,500 and 2,000 patients. More than 500 dentists and dental hygienists will help out. Organizers encourage patients to arrive early - and be prepared to wait. People can arrive for the clinic at the Charlotte Convention Center beginning at midnight. Dentists will see patients beginning at 6 a.m. Friday. The clinic runs through 5 p.m. Saturday. UPDATE: Organizers of a free dental clinic in Charlotte say response to the event has been overwhelming. A spokesman for the North Carolina Dental Society estimates around 2,500 people were waiting in line when the clinic opened early this morning at the Convention Center. The clinic continues overnight until 6:00 p.m. Saturday. But the Dental Society says the event already appears to be over capacity. The program offers free dental care to individuals whose income does not exceed two-times the federal poverty level. Dentists and dental hygienists will continue seeing as many patients as possible round-the-clock through tomorrow. The Dental Society says patients who are turned away for lack of space in the Charlotte clinic can find information on future Missions of Mercy programs across North Carolina at the Society's website - NCDental.org.