TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Talk about a reason to smile. Hundreds of East Texans will receive free dental work this weekend thanks to Texas Mission of Mercy. For the 6th year, local doctors and dentists are offering their services to people in the community who cannot pay for it.
Tammy Whittington has been plagued by a life-time of health problems. She has battled seizures since birth and was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Now, her problem is her rotting teeth.
"We couldn't afford the dental work," said Whittington. "It was really expensive to get any kind of dental work and with Medicaid, it doesn't pay for dental."
So Whittington, along with hundreds of East Texans, lined up at Tyler Junior College, waiting for a chance at free dental work.
"Dr. Nichols is giving me immediate dentures and partials and I haven't had a full set of teeth in I don't know how long!"said Whittington.
Tyler dentist Dr. David Nichols is one of the men behind the mission. Texas Mission of Mercy, or TMOM, started in Smith County and has become a state-wide project.
"There is a big need in every county in Texas and the United States," said Nichols. "There are probably 10,000 people that have abscessed teeth in this county alone."
Friday, they screened over 700 patients.
"I got here at 6," said William Ellis.
"The wait is certainly worth it," said Tysha Ingram.
To qualify for care Saturday, patients have to meet certain Medicare guidelines for income.
"The people need it," said Dr. Nichols. "They're desperate for care."
Desperation that Whittington says hits close to home.
"Something that people don't understand is that your next door neighbor or the very person that lives next to you or behind you is in a lot worse position than you can imagine," said Whittington.
The dentists say it is the smiles at the end that are the true reward.
Dr. Nichols says there is no room for extra patients. But, he said some people will not show up for their appointments, so if you drop by the Bethesda Health Clinic Saturday morning, you may get lucky.