Dentists give residents free care

About 100 people waited under tents in the wind and pouring rain for free dental services at the Periodontal Associates of North Florida office Saturday morning.

In effort to give back, dentists volunteered in the “Dentistry From the Heart ” event. Founded by Vincent Monticciolo, the service started 13 years ago and occurs once a year worldwide, offering care to anyone who’s in need.

The office signed up about eight months ago to put together this event.

“It’s just something we felt the community needed, ” said Liz Amsellem, patient development coordinator.”This event has been done over the United States, also in Europe, just not in Tallahassee. So, when we found out about it, we said we have to be the first.”

About 16 dentists volunteered along with their staff members. People who registered were able to get extractions, cleanings and fillings.

The first 75 people were guaranteed a spot for free dental service. At least 100 tickets were given out, but the last 25 people were alternates.

In order to receive a spot, people arrived as early as 3 a.m. Each person had a ticket and filled out paperwork. About ten people were called into the office while the rest waited for their numbers to be called.

Sylvia Washington, a Tallahassee resident, said she’s had a bad tooth for about a month and a half.

Her tooth was giving her so much pain it caused her to get frequent migraines, she said. She would chew on one side of her mouth and get frustrated when eating because the pain was so severe.

“I needed to get it out bad,” said Washington, who arrived around 6:20 a.m.” I wasn’t expecting a lot of people to be out here. I was expecting maybe 20 or 30, but when I got here they were already 75 and 80 and I’m No. 95.”   

When Washington called the dentist to get her teeth pulled, it was very expensive. She called numerous dentist offices, but she doesn’t have dental insurance and is unable to work.

Washington was glad to get her tooth pulled for free, and now she can stop taking numerous medications for the pain.

Most people who registered agreed dental insurance is something they cannot afford, especially when they’re already paying for health care.

Sharon Kerce, who teaches at Wakulla Shadeville Elementary School, stood in line since 6 a.m. She was No. 74.

Kerce is glad she made it in line. Not having dental insurance made it a real hassle to pay for dental work.   

“It’s just hard,” Kerce said. “I mean, dental insurance is expensive, and I pay about $585 a month for my health insurance, so I can’t afford dental on top of that.

“It’s wonderful that they’re doing this, incredible if you’ve had to try to find a dentist recently. The amount they want for a first visit before they do anything is kind of crazy.”