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Doctor says time was right for free dental clinic
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A local dentist who offered free care last Friday for people who are struggling financially said he was overwhelmed by the response.

"I was shocked with the turnout," said Dr. Kell Gallaher, a partner at Gainesville Dental Group on Thompson Bridge Road. "It just goes to show us how many people are in need out there."

Gallaher, along with dentists Michael Vetter and Cindy Ratliff, had hoped to treat 75 to 100 patients between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

He said they reached that goal, but at least 70 people had to be turned away.

"We saw about 80 patients," he said. "(But) over 150 showed up."

People began standing in line hours before the clinic opened. Some even drove in from other counties, hoping to take advantage of their only chance at free dental care.

They were also eager to talk about the tough times they were going through.

"I heard so many stories of hard luck, job loss, etc.," said Gallaher. "It was very moving."

He said the clinic plans to participate in "Dentists with Heart" again next year, in conjunction with Valentine’s Day. But they’ll approach the project a little differently, based on how things turned out this year.

"I will try to add more doctors to help," said Gallaher. "And perhaps we’ll pass out numbers in the (morning), and tell those who do not get a number that we may be able to see them, but will just have to see how that day goes."

The event demonstrated to Gallaher that many people are desperate for dental care and are living in pain, unable to afford treatment.

"The timing was right for this," he said.

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