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Clinic’s offer of free dental work draws big crowd

POSTED: February 14, 2009 12:12 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Dozens wait in line Friday at Gainesville Dental Group to take advantage of the office's "Dentists with a Heart" program for free dental procedures.

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For Brenda Anderson, Friday’s "Dentists with a Heart" event at Gainesville Dental Group was a chance to mend two broken teeth.

After what she said had been two hours in line, Anderson still waited outside near the back of the dental office at 1026 Thompson Bridge Road.

Anderson, 61, was willing to wait, as evidenced by her two-hour stand, but she did not know for how long.

"I’ve got good patience, but I’m already getting tired," she said.

Three dentists at the Thompson Bridge Road dentist office offered free procedures such as cavity fillings, extractions and cleanings for anyone who showed up at the office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday.

Dr. Kell Gallaher, one of the clinic’s dentists, said earlier in the week that he expected to treat 75 to 100 people by the end of the day.

At least that many people were in line by 11 a.m. hoping to take care of what their incomes or insurance companies would not. The first person served had started the line at 1 a.m.

Gallaher and two other dentists volunteered their time.

Like many others who waited, Anderson said she could not afford dental insurance and had not had coverage for 14 years.

Wendy Robertson drove from Dahlonega to wait in line, and by 11 a.m., she could almost see the door of the building. A single mother working at McDonald’s with no insurance, said she was willing to wait as long as it took to have a few teeth pulled free of charge.

"I’ll be here until they’re done," Robertson said.

Joy Welter of Dahlonega munched on a sandwich while she waited, halfway to the front of the line, to have a tooth pulled. Her friend was prepared for the wait as she ate lunch next to her in a camping chair.

Families with small children waited with them.

"I’ve never had dental insurance or anything, so my teeth are not doing good," Welter said.

Unlike other people in line, Welter recently visited the dentist, but only because her mother paid for the trip, she said.

"I don’t have a normal 9-to-5 job. I work at a children’s home, only part time, so you know, you can’t afford it," Welter said.

Near the front of the line, the crowd was upbeat, with would-be patients joking with the neighbors in line they already had spent three hours with.

"We’ve moved seven windows," one man said, his joke a nod at the windows on the side of the building.



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