East Texans flock to clinic for free dental care - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texans flock to clinic for free dental care

By Philippe Djegal - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Fillings and cavities - they're painful and expensive to treat. So, when word of an East Texas dentist offering free dental work spread, East Texans lined up outside of Smith Dental Care in Tyler by the hundreds.

"It hurts," said Tyler Dibble, referring to his cavity. 

"I've been told that there are numerous cracks in that tooth," said Sheri Gruver, who has waited in line since 4:15 a.m. "So they'll probably pull it."

. . . and, some say they're suffering.

"If 10 is bad, it's bad - painful," said Peggy Thomas, who couldn't afford dental care.

The doors at Smith Dental Care opened at 5:30 a.m., but the outside line started as early as yesterday afternoon.

"I've even [gone] as far as [putting] pliers in my own mouth to break them lose to get it out to get rid of the pain," said Scott Lorance.

Lorance is one of 350 uninsured, under-insured or unemployed East Texans taking full advantage of today's charitable event.

"I've always enjoyed helping people that couldn't help in me in return,," said Dr. Roy Smith, who is in charge of the free clinic.

This is the sixth year in the row Smith Dental Care is hosting Dentistry from the Heart. It's first come first serve. Eight dentists, and more than 90 volunteers are treating patients who couldn't otherwise afford dental care.

"A lot of these people [have] been back and forth to the emergency room," said Smith. "Its hard to imagine [that] someone can't spend $100 or $150 just to get out of pain."

"They try to get to know their patients a little bit instead of just [saying] 'okay you're done - go,'" said 20-year-old Chase Sullivan, who stopped by for cavity fillings.

"The advice I was given is just be careful and don't dip no more snuff," said Sullivan, who saved more than $1,000 in medical costs at today's free clinic.

"I've been telling everybody as soon as I get my teeth fixed, I'm done," said Sullivan. "So, we'll see if I can keep my word."

"It lets me know that there's still people at least here in Tyler that care about the care about the community and to me that's pretty cool," said Tyler Dibble.

During last year's event, Smith Dental Care provided more than $80,000 of free dental care. This year, they say that number increased to nearly $120,000.

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