Thousands flood uptown for free dental clinic


by AMY COWMAN / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @amywcnc

Posted on August 19, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 19 at 5:48 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thousands of uninsured showed up in uptown for a free dental clinic on Friday and more are expected Saturday.

More than 1,000 volunteers are giving the free exams.  Even that high number of dentists, oral surgeons and hygienists isn't enough to help everyone in need.

Sandra Bailey just spent nearly 16 hours waiting to get teeth pulled, but that's not keeping her from leaving the dental clinic with a smile

"I'm thrilled to death, I got all these bad teeth pulled.  It's great,” Bailey said.  "I can't express how happy I am.”
All the dental work is free, and like thousands who showed up at the convention center, she's without insurance and in need of dental work.
"It means a lot to me because it's free and nobody else will do it free for me.  It’s a good help and I appreciate it," said Ephraim Cheapoo.
The event was arranged by the North Carolina Missions of Mercy.  More than 300 local dentists, 200 hygienists, assistants and hundreds more volunteers starting working at 6 a.m. Friday.

People started lining up Thursday evening, so by the time the clinic started, they had reached their max of 2,500 people and had to close the doors.  Dentists say the need in Charlotte far exceeds what they were expecting and can do in just two days.
 "This is a mobile unit, like a mash unit, and we have 88 chairs and, with all the volunteers, this is the max we can actually see," said Charlotte dentist Dr. Scott Davenport.
This was devastating news for many who showed up and had to be turned away.
"I don't have dental insurance because I'm a student at UNCC, " said Catherine McNeil.
"A lot of people need dental, and I can't even get dental until I get $5,000 worth of medical.  So what do you do,” asked Rose McKenzie.
Dentists say they're working as fast and as hard as they can with the limited resources and for those who made it through already, their hard work is much appreciated.
"I was in severe pain so hopefully this will help me eat and chew better and I won't have the pain," said Kathy Jolly.