Before the sun rose on Saturday, there were people sleepily joining a line for free dental care. To bring more awareness to February as Gum Disease month, Periodontal of North Florida hosted its second annual free dental care day.
According to the Center for Advanced Health, close to 130 million Americans are without dental insurance and do not receive regular dental care.
This event was sponsored by Dentistry From the Heart, a non-profit dental organization. Dr. Vincent Monticciolo founded the organization 14 years ago and his mission is still the same: to provide “free smiles.”
Although doors opened at 8 a.m., early registration began at 7:30 a.m. and the first 75 people were eligible for a guaranteed teeth cleaning, filling or extraction. In the line there was a diverse group of people from all ages and races.
Providence community resident, Jackie Holmes, was not one of the first 75 people in line, but she stayed anyway in hopes that someone would lose patience and give up their spot.
“I wish this event was publicized more,” Holmes said. “I would have arrived at 4 a.m. No, scratch that. I would have slept over if that meant securing free dental care.”
A team of dentists in Tallahassee came together to make the event a success. Dr. Walter Colon, one of the event organizers, feels that it is extremely important to go out into the community and give back as well as teach them.
“Almost half of Americans have some sort of gum disease,” Colon said. “It is so important to have a healthy mouth.”
Anquinette Taylor, a third-year public relations student, has not had dental insurance since she graduated high school. She, among others, has not been able to get the twice-a-year cleaning that is highly recommended for healthy teeth.
“I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Taylor said. “I know I won’t be able to get braces, but I can still get seen and get any other issues with my teeth or advice by a professional for free.”
Aside from the free dental care, there was free music, food and drinks. It was a community event that many of the volunteers and residents look forward to continuing annually.
For more information on free dental care, visit http://www.dentistryfromtheheart.org