Clinic brings free dental care
Published 7:41 pm Friday, February 6, 2015
A clinic to provide free dental care to Western Tidewater adults is returning to Suffolk this month for the second consecutive year.
The Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Mission of Mercy program treated 464 patients last year. The goal for Feb. 28 is 700 adults, co-director Lauren Alphin said.
“We have an additional 20 chairs being brought in, which means we will be seeing an additional 20 patients at a time,” she said.
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Once again, the clinic will be held at King’s Fork Middle School, in the gymnasium. It’s intended for the uninsured, underinsured and/or unemployed, but no one will be turned away, according to Alphin.
“We feel confident that most people (served) don’t carry dental insurance,” she said.
Procedures will include fillings, extractions and cleanings, while a limited number of dentures will be available, only for patients with no teeth.
The clinic will start at 6:30 a.m. and finish up by 5 p.m. “When I arrived about 5 a.m. (last year), there was already a line of at least 100 people,” Alphin said.
Patients, who are asked to bring all medications and food and drink, and be prepared to stay all day, first go through registration. Then they are screened by a physician, “to make sure they are able to have the dental procedure done,” Alphin said.
To streamline the process, pre-screening will be performed in the gymnasium beginning at 3 p.m. on the Friday before the clinic. Alphin said they hope to have up to 300 patients ready to be first in line Saturday.
Folks needing dentures are asked to pre-register by calling 284-7009 before 5 p.m. this Friday. Only full dentures — top and bottom — will be fitted, Alphin said.
A computer-generated lottery system will select the patients to receive dentures, and they will be notified by Feb. 16.
It takes a lot to make the clinic happen, including support from community dentists and other volunteers, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Suffolk Public Schools, including King’s Fork Middle School; the city of Suffolk, including Suffolk Police Department and Suffolk Fire and Rescue; Obici Healthcare Foundation, the Virginia Health Care Foundation, Sentara Obici Hospital and the Rotary Club of Suffolk.
“We have people coming from all over — Northern Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke, some from North Carolina, and we do have a lot of locals,” Alphin said of the volunteers.
Registration for volunteers has closed, she said, with more than 400 signed on.
“Everyone wants to serve the community in some way, and this is just an awesome way to do it,” Alphin said. “All the patients last year were so incredibly grateful.”
Alphin also reminded patients not to bring children, as child care will not be available. And plan to be there early to improve your chances of getting help.
“It’s first-come, first-served,” Alphin said.