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Area dentists fill a key need with free clinic
Dr. Mike Vetter and assistant Kim Willard prepare patient Melinda Evans for a filling Friday during the Dentists with Heart program at Gainesville Dental Group. - photo by Tom Reed

Local dentists donated their time and expertise Friday at the fifth annual Dentists with Heart free clinic held by the Gainesville Dental Group.

Dentists from the office and other volunteers provided services such as fillings, extractions, X-rays, cleanings and, for the first time, minor denture repairs.

The crowds were lined up and waiting to get complimentary dental care, which was offered to the first 60 patients, when the event began Friday morning. Many had waited for hours.

“There were at least 60 or more people standing in line (at the beginning of the event),” said Sarah Gallaher, business manager of Gainesville Dental Group. “The first patient in line, I believe, said they got here at 4:15 this morning.”

Gallaher said that three dentists, Drs. Kell Gallaher, Mike Vetter and Cindy Ratliff, volunteered their time and supplies.

“We wanted to do it as a way to give back to the community,” Gallaher said.

Extra patients were also advised that, if time permitted, the dentists would be able to see them.

The staff at Gainesville Dental Group volunteered their time to help with the event. Dentists, hygienists, assistants and their families all participated by providing services, donating supplies and bringing food for patients.

“It means a lot to me because, being a dental assistant, I do see a lot of people who do care about their oral hygiene and would prefer to have a healthy mouth, but they can’t afford it,” said Jeanelly Correa, a dental assistant at Gainesville Dental Group. “This gives those patients an opportunity to have those treatments done. It’s very beneficial for them.”

“It means everything to me, because I don’t have the insurance that would cover it,” said Mattie Mizell.

Mizell took advantage of the ability to have a minor partial denture repair, a first for the event this year. She was also able to take advantage of filling services that she said she would not have been able to have done otherwise.

“It’s definitely a blessing to me,” Mizell said.

The dental office hosts the event once a year and will continue to do so in the years to come. With the expansion of services the group is allowed to offer free of charge, the free clinic is expected to draw a larger crowd next year.

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